Football is often seen as a male sport, but for Doreen Angelina Awuah, it was worth running away from home for.
"As a young girl, I received lashes from my father on several occasions when I returned home from playing football. My parents warned me not to play football because it was considered a sport for males and told me to concentrate on my education," said Awuah.
However, she was determined to pursue her passion, which led her to run away from home and relocate to the Western Region of Ghana for three years.
"I was not given the opportunity to play soccer by my parents. I had to hide from my parents because they warned me not to play football. Because of this frustration, I abandoned home for three years to chase my dream," she said.
Her family started supporting her when they heard that she had been selected to attend a football training tour in the US.
Today, the former Black Queens midfielder, who played in the 2007 Women's World Cup in China, is using her experience and success to promote female football and education.
Through her Tenewonsa Sporting Initiative, which she started in 2019, Awuah is using her experience to motivate young girls who want to pursue football as their career.
Although there is currently an ongoing female national league in the country, many parents still believe that football is for boys and men only and are not ready to allow their girl children to play football even though they may have the talent.
"Getting this far has not been easy for me. I, therefore, want to use my life to inspire these girls who want to take football as their career in the future. The secret behind my success is that I combined my football and education. I have graduated from the Sunyani Technical University with Diploma in Business Studies. I want them to combine football and education, that is the way to go. I am happy I am gradually changing people's perception about women's football," Awuah explained.
The initiative has toured over 200 schools and communities to educate girls on football and education. During her school visits, Awuah teaches girls basic football skills, how to focus on school work while still chasing their football aspirations, and the importance of maintaining good hygiene.
Besides the students, she also meets parents in communities to help them change their perception of girls playing football.
Osei Acheampong is a parent who changed his mind about his daughter playing football after meeting Awuah.
"I was always angry with my daughter for playing football for her school team at OLA Girls' Senior High School at Kenyasi; however, when we had an encounter with Doreen somewhere in December 2019, I had a change of mind seeing the success that she had had. Because of that, I now support my daughter to play football," Acheampong said.
"Parents should learn from this example, the only advice I have for them is that they should encourage their children not to abandon their books," he added.
Rachel Busia is a former Susec Model Basic School student in Sunyani who played for her school team through Awuah's motivation. Today, she plays for Ampem Darkoa Ladies at Techiman in the Bono East Region.
"I am currently a second-year student of Techiman Senior High School, I also play for the school's football team and Ampem Darkoa Ladies Football Club as well. I was motivated by sister Doreen when she came to our school that is Susec Model School in 2020 when she came to talk to us about combining education and football," she said.
Awuah has commended the Ghanaian Football Federation for changing the women's football league from a regional to a national format.
"I am one of the happiest people today. Women's football is popular now. It has opened doors for girls to showcase their talent. These ladies are earning a living as they are paid by their clubs. Without football I do not know how my life will be, I have never regretted playing football," said Awuah.
A sports teacher at Nkrankrom Basic School, Daniel Adomako, noted that Awuah's visit to the school is already yielding results.
"In the past, we didn't even realize most of these girls had football abilities. Today we see them getting involved in our football activities. Two of our girls who went to Senior High Schools in 2022 have joined their respective school teams," he said.
Awuah’s former coach at Ampem Darkoa Ladies Football Club, Joe Nana Adarkwa, is also proud of what her protegee has achieved with her initiative.
"I believe Doreen's initiative is changing the perception people have about women's football. Day in and day out we are getting more girls who want to play football and that is good," Adarkwa said.
For Awuah, the journey is far from over. Her goal is to reach as many girls as possible and inspire them to go even further than she did.
bird story agency