Darsha Keogan’s family, coach and club were not taking no for an answer.
Christchurch’s Cobham Intermediate didn’t have enough girls to enter a football team in this year’s Anchor AIMS Games, so the 13-year-old sought special dispensation to play in the boys’ team.
Coach Carly Lawton had to write to officials, lobby football organisations and encourage clubs to write endorsements of Keogan’s extraordinary skill. She says Keogan made the team on talent but the rules excluded her from playing because of her gender.
Keogan applied to play on the boys’ team last year but her application for dispensation was denied. This year, a crowd of people who believed in Keogan’s talent swept in behind her to lobby for her chance to take the field.
Dispensation was granted and Keogan has taken the field in her team’s blue and red kit.
“I really love football,” she says. “Especially playing with the boys, because they play differently to the girls. [With] the boys, we normally play out wide.”
Keogan says girls tend to play up the middle while boys play out wide, which suits her style.
Captain Josh Sapsford has played club football alongside Keogan for two years, and says it’s awesome she is on the team. “Once they see her play, they’ll realise she’s a different level from all the other girls.”
Their recipe seemed to work – Cobham opened up the AIMS tournament with a first-round 8-0 win over Levin Intermediate, swept past Aquinas College 5-1 in the second round and edged a tough Havelock North Intermediate team 4-2 in round 3.