Women's football in Egypt started in 1993 when Dr Sahar El Hawary set up her own team. Now head of the Egyptian Women's Football Federation and a member of the FIFA Committee for Women's Football, she says 'I always dreamt of being a referee. I had patience and guts, and I accepted all sorts of sacrifices to do this.'

Dr Sahar takes a hands-on approach with the national team. The daughter of a prominent Egyptian referee, she fought against conservative Egyptian values which dictated that women should not play. Initially she sourced local talent from all over the country, bringing young players to Cairo and feeding and educating them with her own money. She sadi ' We now have 13 year old girls supporting families through football. We give her a basic education and her family treats her differently. Social change is happening within the family unit through the girl and the structure of society changes.'

Dr Ahmed Bassiouny (right) watches as the national team is coached by technical director Tarek El Saigy.

Photographs of past male sporting heroes adorn the walls of the National Teams' Training Ground in 6 October City.

The Egyptian National Team. Engy Atteya (back row 5th from right) feels honoured 'to represent Egypt now it feels like our country. Before it was the regime's country, now it's the people's.'

Players for the national team pose at the National Teams Training Ground, 6th October City.

Omneya Mahmoud (left) is Wadi Degla and Egypt's youngest player. At 17 she is part of the new generation inspired by the revolution. She hopes democracy will bring new investment into Egyptian football, enabling it to compete on an international level in the future.

Turf in midday sun at the National Teams Training Ground, 6 Oct City.

National Teams Training Ground, 6 October City.

Lunch is prepared for the national women's team in 6 October City.

Lunch is prepared for the national women's team in 6 October City.

Mohammed prepares lunch for the Egyptian national women's team.

Chelsea goalkeeping gloves at Wadi Degla Sports Club, Maadi, Cairo.

The Wadi Degla team arrive at a service station on the way to Qena Sports Club, Upper Egypt.

Midfielder Nivien Gamal has played for Wadi Degla for 4 years. When she started playing the sport was only really for men, and it was frowned upon especially for Muslim women to play. She started wearing a headscarf when she started to play football, to show that Muslim women can and should play.

Players relax on the tour bus to Qena.

Coaching staff and teammates wait in reception of their 5 star hotel. Head Coach Mohamed Kamal (2nd from left in blue) believes his role is to make sure his players are happy and stress-free when they play. As a company with successful real estate and telecommunications and petrol interests, its male and female sports teams are seen as important publicity for the Wadi Degla Holding Company group.

The Wadi Degla team enjoy time out with belly dancing in the hotel the night before the match. Players always have to wear their strip when away with the club to stop boys from flirting with them.

Football boots on a table at Qena Sports Club before the match between Wadi Degla and Qena starts.

Wadi Degla and Qena teams meet at the start of the match. Women in conservative Upper Egyptian towns like Qena are not allowed to be socially active, so the existence of teams there represents a radical shift in the structure of society as women become breadwinners via an entirely non-traditional form of employment.

Spectators at female football matches in Egypt are few and far between, as the general public are on the whole unaware of the existence of the 3 leagues. Here security guards at Qena Sports Club take a welcome break from the afternoon heat to watch the match.

Algerian goalkeeper Yala Rebiha (left) watches the match with teammates. Awarded South African Goalkeeper of the Year in 2003 and Algerian Goalkeeper of the Year 2010, she decided to end her career in Egypt. She regrets that now, not having realised that conditions in Algeria are far superior to those in Egypt.

Safia Abdel Daiem plays midfield for Wadi Degla and aims to be the first female coach of the Egyptian national team. 'Women's football is new everywhere. If you watch it in the UK, it still doesn't get as much coverage as men's. My family is very liberal and has always supported me, but there are girls whose families didn't want them to wear shorts until they saw it as a good source of income.'

Mervat Abd El Galil was nicknamed Kawarshy as a child, after a well known Egyptian goalkeeper. One of Egyptian football's veteran players at 32, she is coming to the end of her goalkeeping career.

Kawarshy with 5 of the 7 children she supports with her football wage. Since her parents' deaths, she is the main breadwinner in her family, supporting her 2 brothers' families.

Kawarshy with some of the children she supports with her football wage.

Midfielder Engy Atteya plays for Wadi Degla and the national team. 'All girls who play football are fighting for women's rights.' But despite the high number of women fighting in all of Egypt's revolutions, women are still unequal in the eyes of the state: 'Our football card doesn't say professional, it says amateur. We don't have contracts. We compete like men do, we leave education and jobs for football. It's still not fair.'

The first generation of female coaches are now working with Egyptian teams.

The first generation of female coaches are now working with Egyptian teams.

Midfield striker Marihan Yehia, 23, texts on the tour bus to Qena. Marihan Yehia watches Wadi Degla play at Qena. 'We are called professionals, but we're not really. We can't live off our wages, not like the male players. I will have to use my business degree at some point and choose that over a career in football.' Until recently, Marihan was supplementing her footballing wage with a job in telesales at a phone company.

Scoring Change

Wadi Degla Women’s Football team is on a roll – 3 times winners of the Egyptian League and Cup and currently counting 12 players on the national squad, it regularly hosts friendlies to neighbouring national teams such as Jordan thanks to the skills of its players. Financed by the conglomerate Wadi Degla Holding Company, which started in telecommunications and now comprises serious business interests in real estate, industrial manufacturing and private sports clubs, as well as owning 2 football teams in Belgium, the team very kindly hosted me on their 3 day trip to an away match in Qena, and over the course of several national team practises patiently explained the relationship between football, equality for women and belly-dancing along the way.