You Kick Like a Girl

Lunae, Dhanus 16, 249

 Farra, Ware,and  Barnato are among the women taking MAFL by storm.

Farra, Ware,and  Barnato are among the women taking MAFL by storm.

When Al’amal SC were looking to pull off a stunning upset of the Marineris Comets in Week 8, Captain Musaddiq Baddour instantly knew who his dance partner would be.

Arwa Farra is our most agile and precise player. If anyone was to manage their way through the Marineris Comets’ defenders, it would be her.
— Baddour

And that she did.

For the game’s first goal, Farra cleverly anticipated and intercepted Comets Defender Stephen Liu’s pass, passed it to Baddour as she ran through the defenders, played his return pass and finished with a boost kick dagger into the far corner. 

Care for another dance?  Baddour and Farra did as they continued their match magic on the second goal of the game.

This time it was Comets Defender Zaida Agre who was victimized by Farra who intercepted Agre’s errant pass and passed over to Baddour who began a crisp, flowing team move. Baddour then delivered a no-look pass over to a streaking Farra who brilliantly rounded the keeper and lofted the shot into the net for the second and final goal of the match.

Al’amal SC: 2, Marineris Comets 0.

Baddour’s confidence in Farra’s ability is no shock as the emerging impact of Women players this year has been one of the more exciting themes in this early MAFL season.

Another theme: The top team to date are the San Olympus Titans with an 8 and 1 record.  

Their Captain: Raenia Ware, 22 years old, Earth Born and the only Woman Captain in MAFL.

Ware isn’t even the Titan’s leading scorer. That distinction belongs to her teammate, María Fernanda Carballal with 3 goals to date. You guessed it, Maria’s a Woman as well.

Amazingly, it wasn’t that long ago that the gender parity discussion was a hotly debated one.

So much so, that even up to the 11th hour of MAFL inauguration, MAFL officials were debating the merits of having two separate leagues: one for each gender (with non-binary players given the right to choose which league).

Ultimately, MAFL decided to bring everyone together in a parity party with target numbers to create balanced player demographics for gender and for birth place.

While we’re not quite at parity yet, the disparity isn’t as wide as you think.

Of the 84 goals scored after Week 8, 43% have been scored by female athletes.

43% of the top 14 scorers to date are women:

  • María Fernanda Carballal of the San Olympus Titans;
  • Arwa Farra  and Vivian Badour of the Al’amal SC;
  • Yvonne Barnato of Europa United;
  • Mariya Nikitovna of Novyimir Dynamo; and
  • Samantha Park of the Marineris Comets.

While aspirational gender equity played a factor in mixed league play, some cynics believe sheer pragmatic population numbers, and lack of, may have played an even bigger role.

Raenia Ware however, isn’t buying any of that. She insists the decision to go mixed was based on merit.

 “Frankly, we’re almost in the 22nd Century and I can’t believe we’re still fixated on gender. If you look at the numbers, they confirm what myself and others already know. Some of the best players on this planet are women, full stop”, said Ware.

“There’s a reason why they made me Captain of the Titans just like there’s a reason why Maria, and Arwa, and Vivian are doing so well in this league”, said Ware.

From one Captain to another, Liddell Bradley of the Comets has his own theory on why women players have had such a strong impact so far.

“I think it’s great for the game that our Lady friends are doing so well but I know in those two games where Nikitovna scored on us in Week 3 and Farra scored twice on us in Week 8 , I can honestly tell you that our Defenders weren’t focusing on them” said Bradley.

“Our defensive strategy was focused more on shutting down Ilya Jaroslav Petrovich, Sergey Samrend, Mussaddiq Baddour, and Hamad Fayad. I guess when I think about it, they’re all the male stars so maybe there’s this unconscious bias we have. I don’t know. ”

Coach Matthäus Reinmann of Europa United agrees with Bradley, “I’ve seen all the matches so far and I can say, all of us are guilty of collapsing our defenders around the star male players and it’s like we’re ignoring the ladies and taking them for granted. They are definitely getting more chances.”  However, some experts wonder whether the chances women players have displayed to date relate to their unique biology and adaptation to Mars environment.

Early NASA studies and ongoing research at Marineris Tech U on gender in off-world conditions provided suggestions at how the cardiovascular, immunologic, sensorimotor, musculoskeletal, and behavioral adaptations may differ.  Some of those key differences:

  • Women had a slight bias towards accuracy versus speed in alertness test vs men.
  • Women suffered less visual impairment than men.
  • Hearing sensitivity, when measured at several frequencies, declined with age much more rapidly in male astronauts than it did in female astronauts.

“When my helmet’s on, all the Closed Circuit Player Communication noise doesn’t faze me”, said Carballal of the Titans, “I’m able to process it and tune it out when needed. I know some of the guys hate it. They say it distracts them.”

Recent studies on first generation Mars habitation looked at Mars’ gravitational impact on muscle/bone mass loss. Early results suggested that since men generally have more muscle and bone mass than women, the rate and percentage of loss for men appeared to be greater than women.

The more you have, the more you lose according to these studies thus Men apparently had to train harder to reduce the amount of bone/muscle decrease. However, the more you train, the more likely you experience sopite syndrome – a neurological disorder with symptoms of fatiguedrowsiness, and mood changes to prolonged periods of motion.

Bradley admitted to experiencing some of those challenges. “I put in as much Gravity training as possible and I still find it hard to find equilibrium. You can only use the centrifugal services so much and it isn’t feasible to live 1 g on Mars all the time.  It’s an ongoing struggle.”

In addition to exercise, nutrition and medication has been used together as the holy trinity to mitigating Mars gravity.

Some studies suggest women may be responding to diet and medication better than men as early results have indicated more reported incidences of nausea, extreme muscle/bone loss, and allergic reactions in men than women.

One potential reason for the male side effects: a large portion of that medication is in the form of fertility drugs. Those fertility drugs (clomiphene citrate, human chorionic gonadotropin, and human menopausal gonadotropin) were generally made for women initially but have been approved for male use as well to help boost fertility and mass.

So while science may be suggesting a few biological and adaptive advantages for women over men, others are not so convinced.

“If you’re basing things on biology, well, men generally have more endurance than women so I expect as the season goes on, women will begin to tire more quickly”, said Coach Reinmann.

Teams will also make adjustments and focus more defensive assignments on the gals, so I expect some correction later in the year with men’s scoring up and women’s scoring trending down.
— Reinmann

Bradley added, “Well, all that geeky science stuff sounds nice but none of it seems conclusive. What is a hard fact is men have scored more goals than women so far and that Uday Lanka is the leading scorer in the game right now and last I checked, he’s a dude.” 

When told Reinmann and Bradley’s comments, Farra replied, “Well, let’s see what happens for the rest of the season. I have lots of respect for Lanka but my teammates have put money on me being the top scorer at the end of the season, and I want to make sure they get paid.”

Regardless of what happens during the rest of the season, one can agree that the Shape of the Game is much more enhanced with women in the picture.

Final Farra words, “Boys - Beware the Chick Kick”.