One Step Beyond
Ep. 28: Equal Playing Field, first half.
Ever considered arranging an official 90-minute football/soccer match, on a full-size pitch, at 18,746ft/5714 meters above sea level, in the oxygen-starved atmosphere on top of Mt Kilimanjaro? Erin Blankenship did; in 2017, she helped co-ordinate a World Record for the highest altitude match ever played, one in which every participant, from 22 different countries, was female.
Erin was born in the USA, grew up in Saudi Arabia, played college soccer in the States, professional football in the UK, in competitive leagues in Saudi Arabia, Scandinavia, the US, China, Afghanistan and Jordan, and trained with the US Olympic Team for Modern Pentathlon. For her day job, Erin works for the UN World Food Programme as the Regional Peace and Conflict advisor for the Middle East and North Africa. She is also the co-founder of Equal Playing Field, a “grassroots, non-profit initiative to challenge gender inequality in sport and to promote sports development for girls and women globally, especially in marginalised country contexts,” with an evident focus on football/soccer. Following its initial foray up Kilimanjaro, Equal Playing Field has gone on to set four more world records, including one for the lowest altitude game ever, in the Dead Sea of Jordan, to demonstrate the need for top-to-bottom change in sports gender equality.
In the first half of a two-half conversation (45mins + stoppage time each) Erin discusses with me the challenges she experienced as a female player, the subsequent birth of Equal Playing Field, the logistical challenges of the team climb up Kilimanjaro and the game that followed, and some of the organization’s other achievements, both at World Record and Grass Roots levels. A second half will follow. The show will not go to penalties.
Links for this show:
Equal Playing Field web site
BeInSports Equal Playing Field documentary about the Kili climb
Equal Playing Field YouTube channel (many short clips about programmes/camps/World Records)
Equal Playing Field Instagram
Equal Playing Field Facebook
Equal Playing Field Twitter
Erin Blankenship Instagram
Laura Youngson Instagram
Ida Sports website
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