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Selective Freedom (SS)

A portrait of a lesbian soccer team

Location: Paarl, South Africa.

Simone Scholtz/Twenty Ten

In 2007 Banyana-Banyana midfielder, Eudy Simelane, was gang raped and stabbed to death because she was a lesbian. This is an unfortunate example of how, in a traditionally patriarchal African society, violence against lesbians is a reality for many gay women.

Faced with discrimination in their community, a group of young lesbians in Mbekweni Township came together and formed their own soccer team. It became a place of safety for the young women, and somewhere they could pursue their passion for soccer, and truly be themselves.

Despite the sense of belonging they felt to be part of the team, some of the women found that the prejudice from members of their community intensified to the point that it was no longer safe for them to play soccer in the township.

With the FIFA World Cup 2010 soccer showcase around the corner, it is disappointing to see members of South African society who cannot enjoy the freedom of playing football as part of their team.



South Africa has a traditionally patriarchal society where violence against lesbians and corrective rape is a reality for many gay women living in townships. The discrimination in their community caused a group of young lesbians in Mbekweni (Wellington) to form a soccer team. It use to be where they felt accepted and safe.

Sispho Nduzuzo:

“I love myself as being a lesbian. When I am playing lesbian soccer I feel comfortable. She is my sister and she live this life I live.”

Thando Diwili:

“I feel free when I am playing soccer. We use to play, have fun, but then there are times in the stadium where we can be attacked by the people who are watching us. We played and played and we were getting along with our coach. Then, suddenly there are times when he can use words that are homophobic to us. I think he can not get the point that we are lesbians. We are not straight girls.

Maybe when you were kicking a ball, then lose it to someone on the other team, ne. Then they will say, “Hey you, tomboy, why are you doing that? This is not the field of tomboy, just play like a lady or be a man.”

We can't take it any more. We are running away from things like drugs. Still in the field we get discriminated because of who we are. Even in church we get discriminated.

Straight people will ask us, “Why are you changing nature? God made you to be a women, not to be lesbian and date other girls.“ The more we talk about it to other people the more the discrimination part decreases.”

Duma Tafeli:

“When I came to this team, it was fun. When the time goes on, I had a fight with coach. I tell him that he must stop telling us every time that we are not men, we are women. So he said to me, I can't talk when he is talking, because he is a man.

I can't play soccer here at the stadium. Every move that we are taking, they are watching. It is very hectic to play because some times people they take us as if we are not living things. We are not human beings. They don't want us to be like them. I don't trust them. They can do anything.

I have been discriminated by a few people in my environment, but I have a lot of friends who were raped and murdered here in Mbekweni and Khayalitsha. I think soccer is my career. I am talented, but I would rather lose it, because I cant play it any more.”

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