CHICAGO (April 17, 2013) – The U.S. Mission in Iraq hosted two former U.S. National and Olympic Team soccer players from April 4 –14, 2013. Mary Harvey and Lorrie Fair visited Iraq to work with, and motivate Iraqi girls and women interested in soccer and team sports as part of the U.S. Department of State’s “Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports” initiative. Both Harvey and Fair are former FIFA World Cup champions and Olympic gold medalists.
In Baghdad, the U.S. players visited Baghdad University’s College of Physical Education in Jadriya and the University’s College of Physical Education for Women to hold soccer clinics with girls, young female athletes and coaches. Similar activities were held at the Othman Al-Obaidi Sports Hall and the Baghdad Club Stadium in Zawraa Park, where female teams from the Oil Club, Mustaqbal Club, and the Culture Club participated in the program. The U.S. Embassy also hosted a roundtable discussion for officials from the Ministry of Education, former Iraqi athletes, and local coaches to discuss the challenges on the road to increasing the participation of girls in sports.
In Basrah, Harvey and Fair worked with young female athletes from the University of Basrah’s College of Physical Education. Additionally, the U.S. Consulate in Basrah partnered with the Basrah Directorate of Education to organize several clinics for teenage girls and coaches from local schools. On their final day in Basrah, Harvey and Fair visited the new Sports City soccer stadium and had a lengthy discussion with the Governor of Basrah about strategies to support girls’ sports programs. Their visit to Iraq concluded in Erbil, where Harvey and Fair conducted a one-day workshop focusing on ball handling and defensive skills as well as team building exercises with a group of over 40 young women athletes and their coaches from the city of Kirkuk, and a separate one-day program with a group of young athletes and their coaches from Daquq.
Contributing to the empowerment of Iraqi girls and women is an important part of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, which calls for cultural cooperation between the United States and Iraq. The SportsUnited program of the U.S. Department of State aims to use sports to promote self-esteem, gender equality, teamwork, and mutual understanding throughout the world.