What is CaiRollers?
The CaiRollers are the first roller derby team in Egypt. We are a league of 22 skaters, 5 referees and many volunteers. We are also comprised of two intra-league teams, the Killa’Patras and Isis Crisis.
What’s your vision for CaiRollers?
My vision for the CaiRollers is to grow up to 60-70 skaters, creating 4 teams within the CaiRollers’ league that can compete against each other. Also, they will select a travel team to go and play teams internationally or host other teams from around the world here. I hope the CaiRollers can play in the Roller Derby World Cup, spring 2015.
They will have to fundraise and save money to make it there to compete and represent Egypt. I also hope that the CaiRollers will organize community initiatives to empower girls in Egypt to work hard, support each other and stay fit.
As an expat, what inspired you to start CaiRollers?
I played roller derby for the London Rollergirls before moving to Egypt. I wasn’t ready to quit the game, so when I met the cofounder Shanekiah Bickham who played in New Orleans, USA, I was inspired to start the CaiRollers. I was inspired to start this team because I didn’t see many sport opportunities for women over the age of 18. Also, I think Egyptian women are some of the toughest women I’ve met yet, so I knew they would make awesome roller girls.
How long did it take you to put together the CaiRollers team?
It took us 10 months to grow the first set of skaters and have our first game. In the derby world, many leagues take a year to two years, so we did this quickly. The toughest part was getting a set of referees to regulate our game. After the first year, we lost 80% of our team due to skaters moving, becoming busy, injured, etc. So we started over again and this year we recruited even more skaters, referees. Next year we will start with 20 skaters instead of 3 and ongoing recruitment and new skater training happens every 10 weeks, starting in September 2014.
How does CaiRollers work to empower women?
You pick yourself up off the ground from falling 20-30 times at the beginning when you learn to skate. This creates mental toughness. Then when you get stable, you play the game and you are hit hard and have to learn to hit hard back. So first comes mental strength then physical strength. The entire time, you are supported by a group of women who become like your sisters and this creates emotional strength. You never realize just how strong you are until you play this sport. You can’t take yourself too seriously, we are always laughing and giving each other a hard time.
What do you hope to achieve by starting CaiRollers?
My goal for the CaiRollers has always been to start it and leave it. It belongs to Cairo. I had hoped to create a league with a business and training infrastructure that would last and that job is complete. The CaiRollers are here to stay.
Do you think Egyptian women would be interested in taking part in CaiRollers?
Absolutely. The Derby culture allows you to be anyone you want. It’s the only sport that has ages between 18-40, different personalities, beliefs, backgrounds, class, etc. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are accepted. Many Egyptian women are faced with rigid feminine roles so getting to choose a name and find a different part of you on the track is liberating. Maybe you are quiet and reserved at home or at work, but on the track you can scream and get mad. It’s an amazing outlet.
What are the obstacles you faced when launching CaiRollers?
The obstacles were many, having to get roller derby gear from outside of Egypt, helping the girls afford their start up gear (300USD a skater), playing outside in hot weather, once through a sandstorm, and on surfaces that aren’t the greatest. However, we have since completed international gear donations from roller girls around the world and put together several loaner gear kits that new skaters can borrow until they get their own. We have found better venues and we play super early when it’s too hot. Every obstacle has a path around it. The other obstacle is getting CaiRollers supported locally. We had over 40 international interviews our first year, the international world of derby is going crazy about us, but the local community doesn’t know our name. That’s changing slowly, but we need our fans to be able to attract sponsorship, feel supported, throw public games, get volunteers, etc.
Egyptian women have been subject to sexual harassment and violence on the streets of Egypt for years. Do you think the sport of roller derby could potentially put women at risk if they were to play the sport in public areas?
No. We practice in venues that have had a relationship with us and know us. They do not allow harassment while we are on the track. When we have our games, the people who come are generally friends and family of the rollergirls or people who are aware of roller derby the sport. Just as with everything else in life, I guess if there was a person out there that was against women playing sports, they could cause a problem, but they would be highly outnumbered by those that love us and would protect us. We carefully choose our venues in order to provide the highest protection and quality of performance.
Do you think CaiRollers could succeed in expanding to other cities?
I don’t see why not. Every other country I know of had their first team in their major city and it was only a matter of time before it expanded. London started 6 years ago as the only team in the UK, now there are over 30 leagues in England alone. If other cities wanted to start a team, they would have a big sister, CaiRollers, to help them. The more the better.
What can people who are interested in joining CaiRollers do to learn more?
We are always recruiting more skaters (fresh-meat), referees (zebras) and volunteers. Send a message through the CaiRollers Facebook page to sign up.