As part of our collaboration with the adidas Breaking Barriers Project, Sportiw is highlighting the exceptional and atypical paths of players. This time, our attention is focused on Mariam, an athlete currently playing at the regional level. Mariam began playing sports at the age of 13, when she joined her city’s club and discovered her love for basketball, a passion transmitted by her older sister. Join us for a look back at her journey.
How was your passion for basketball born?
I started watching the NBA and observing and reproducing all of Kyrie Irving’s gestures; he made me appreciate basketball and influenced my way of playing. He gave me the desire to play, always continue to learn, and train to progress. A little later, Marine Johannes played this role because she also completely influenced my basketball game. When I discovered her, what I wanted was to have her confidence and have the same game vision as her! Now, I have not stopped training to gain even more confidence as a woman.
As a player, what changes have you seen in women's basketball?
Women’s basketball is increasingly finding its place in sports in general. Its popularity is constantly increasing and it is on track! However, there is still much progress to be made as it is still too rare to find professional women’s basketball matches on TV. During mixed sporting events, women’s basketball is always considered less important. In Europe, I see a shift towards women’s sports becoming more accessible and promoted, and I hope it can continue like this.
Have you had an experience where you felt gender inequality?
I play a lot of street basketball, and the percentage of girls on the outdoor fields is 10-20%. To be able to play on these fields can be complicated as a woman — I have not had direct experiences, but I have seen them. Some men may not want to let women play, or put them in a team and not pass to them. These are small details that show how gender inequality in sports is still present.
What advice would you give to young girls who aspire to play basketball?
How do you manage the balance between your academic/personal life and basketball?
It’s complicated, basketball is everything for me so I put it first. If I have to choose between going to class or to a basketball game, the choice is quickly made! But I try to juggle between the two anyway, so my weekends are reserved for basketball, and on weekdays I juggle between classes and training. For now, I have always managed to find a balance.
Do you think that initiatives like the adidas Breaking Barriers Project can make a difference in promoting sports?
I really like this kind of Project, so much that I would like to contribute even more, because my goal is to promote women’s sports around the world! This kind of Project gives women a voice and visibility in sports, and allows them to learn about what needs to be done to include them more in sports.
One last piece of advice to conclude?
Thank you for giving me the chance to express myself about my career and for being able to help me motivate all these young girls who do not dare to start because they think that “sports are only for men.”