Turning Point School Blog
Last June, Turning Point School physical education teacher and coach Sasha Andrews was one of 32 women hailing from six different continents to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania before descending to play a 90-minute, 11-a-side match at 18,799 feet, setting a world record for highest altitude in a competitive football (soccer) match. The event was organized by Equal Playing Field, a non-profit grassroots initiative that challenges gender inequality in sport and promotes the development of sport for girls and women globally, with particular attention to marginalized country contexts.
More than 1 mile higher than the world's highest professional stadium, higher even than Everest Base Camp, the game took place in a volcanic ash crater where the team built their own pitch, and included FIFA referees and an altitude specialist medical team. The two teams included players with World Cups, Olympics, the Champions League and European Championships under their belts, more than ten women's national teams represented, and ages ranging from 15-55 years old.
Coach Andrews, who hails from Edmonton, Alberta and played on the Canadian soccer teams in the 2003 and 2007 World Cup as well as the Beijing Olympics, proudly represented Canada.
“Our initiative was to promote opportunity, equality and respect for women and girls who seek out a passion for something they love,” Coach Andrews explains. “To me it is impossible to know how my life would have been without football, but the problem is that the playing field is not equal.”
The game, between Volcano FC and Glacier FC, ended goalless, but the result was inconsequential as the sole purpose of the challenge was to highlight the inequality women face in sport. “Ironically it was an ‘equal’ result of 0–0. Our initiative was to promote opportunity, equality, and respect for women and girls who seek out a passion for something they love,” Andrews illustrates.
Since returning from her trek, Coach Andrews continues to inspire others by recounting her adventures and telling her story, including this feature on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and, of course, her daily interactions with her students at Turning Point School.
“Every ball that is rolling brings a smile to my face, joy in my heart, and a sparkle to my eye,” says Sasha. “I have met so many people around the world, have had so many challenges, have earned a free education, and now have my dream job working at Turning Point where I get to play every day with students who, in turn, inspire me to be my best self.”
To learn more about Coach Andrews’ journey as well as the movement that inspired her, watch this documentary (family friendly!) that follows the astonishing journey of these talented and dedicated women as they climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to stage the world's highest-altitude football match and in doing so provide a platform to discuss gender equality in sport.