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Freestyling African Teen is Fighting Racism, Sexism & Islamophobia in Europe

When Lubna Omar is out practising with her football, the last thing she should have on her mind is how others perceive her. But as she explained in Helsinki on Saturday, how others view a Muslim teenager wearing a hijab and playing football is sometimes out of her control.

Born in Sudan, the 17-year-old’s experience of racism while growing up in Finland meant she often couldn’t enjoy the one thing she truly loved doing. “When I was playing football, my team was so racist,” she said. “When we played, they didn’t show for me or give me the ball or anything.

They thought it was better to lose the ball than give me the ball, that’s what I hate.” Lubna said that wearing a hijab and being Muslim led to judgement from others.

But it wasn’t only from her peers, her own parents told Lubna they believed football to be a ‘boy’s game.’ Lubna explained that the exclusion made her feel ‘alone’ when playing in a team but she found solace in freestyling, which she took up just over a year ago.

She’s now aiming to go to the very top and represent Sudan at Super Ball – a World Open Freestyle Football Championship. “I just made one video of it [freestyle] and after that, a lot of freestylers followed me and they said to me ‘keep going’ and all that. And there are also Sudan freestyler who come there and say to me ‘don’t stop’ even if your mum or your dad say to,” Lubna said. Perhaps one day, Lubna will be as well-known as her hero – Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah. “Why do I like him? He’s Muslim, he does all of his Islamic things and he also plays football.

He supports everyone, he’s so positive,” she said. You can check out Lubna’s Instagram account here: @lubnafreestyle