It’s Friday evening, the sky is cloudless and the sun is already on the horizon. She bathes the Tempelhofer Feld in orange light with some dark purple spots. The air is no longer quite so muggy, you can even feel a slight breeze. The view extends far over the large lawns, where some people have settled down with blankets and others skate with inline skates over the wide paths.
Behind a circus tent and several volleyball courts stretches a large basketball court in bright purple and red tones surrounded by a high fence. On it are two playing fields made of tartan, with “Satou Sabally” emblazoned on the top of the board in capital letters – the name of one of the most successful basketball players in Germany.
People have been coming together here to play basketball together for the past few weeks as part of an 11-week summer training program, but it remains accessible even after that. So-called open cages are a rarity in Berlin, most clubs train in halls or on sports fields that are often difficult to reach.
The special feature: On Friday evening, the court on Tempelhofer Feld is reserved exclusively for FLINTA* people, i.e. women, lesbians, intersex non-binary, trans* and agender people, in short: those who are patriarchally discriminated against because of their sexual identity or gender identity.
“I’m really happy about this new opportunity,” says Heike Mann, who works as a trainer at Seitenwechsel, the “Sports Club for WomenLesbianTran*Inter* and Girls” on a voluntary basis. For them it is the first training on the new court, around 20 people are there. Mann and her colleague Sara Radonja hope that more will hear about it and join them in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, when Türkiyemspor also trained on the court as part of the summer program, there were almost twice as many. “Perhaps one day we can even play tournaments in 3×3 streetball or even basketball, which are realized here on the court together by all the sports clubs involved and are accessible to all FLINTA* and girls*,” says Mann.
Mann grew up in a small town in the Ore Mountains, and for a long time she and a friend were the only girls in her school to play basketball. “Actually, there was only handball and football club sports, but even that was difficult for girls. That’s why we gambled on the court in our free time and only played against boys.”
She has been working as a coach at Seitenwechsel for nine months. For her, the contrast between her own childhood and the summer schedule couldn’t be greater, says Mann, glancing around at the pitch and tossing a yellow jersey to a player. “A lot of people say they want to make this their home court; that this could be the place where you can meet and gamble more often. That’s why space is so important.”
In principle, the court is open to everyone, but by the hour it is only accessible to FLINTA* people. The idea behind it has nothing to do with “hatred of men” or the assumption that you can’t have fun doing sports together, says Mann. “It’s just nice to be in an environment where, for once, you’re not in the minority but in the majority. It needs a safe space so that more people dare to play basketball before everyone can gamble together.”
Radonja agrees: “First of all, you have to create a space in which women* can overcome their fears.” Because FLINTA* people in particular often experience discrimination in sport. A player who is trans* has also attended a training session. “She felt too big for a long time and didn’t dare to come to basketball for many years,” says Mann. “We then told her about the new court at the lesbian-gay street festival and shortly afterwards she came to practice to have a look and now she plays herself.”
The players start with some warm-up exercises, dribble the ball across the field and then throw it into the basket. Some know each other from training when they change sides, others joined spontaneously. “They are all really in the mood to gamble. They would love to get started with the game right away,” says Mann and laughs. There is no age limit, most are between 20 and 30 years old, but much older players also take part in the training.
Hip-hop is playing in the background, some laughingly dance to the music during the breaks while waiting for their turn. The training takes place in German and English and lasts one and a half hours. At the beginning there is a round of introductions in which all participants state their name and personal pronoun.
Marion, who has been playing at Seitenwechsel for a long time, is also there: “The new court is so beautiful, I already love it. It’s great how many women* come together here and you don’t have to overcome yourself because there are so many men there and you might not be allowed to participate.” She really likes that the court was named after Sabally. “There are still very few role models in basketball who are women, so it’s very special.”
After the players have warmed up, Sara Radonja shows them some tricks. She was born in Sarajevo but has lived most of her life in Belgrade and Berlin. The new court awakens a feeling of happiness from her childhood, she says, “the memory of being able to train in public space on a super nice court and in a very good location.”
Because in Serbia, where she herself was initially active with ŽKK Partisan, basketball played a major role. “Unfortunately, because of the economic crisis, the women’s teams disbanded first, which is why I had to change clubs,” she says. But the joy of playing remained despite all the circumstances and so she played as a young adult for clubs like Novi Beograd and Radnicki in the first division.
She wants to pass on her passion to others here in Berlin. She hopes that more courts like this will be built in the years to come, because: “You don’t have to be familiar with basketball clubs, FLINTA*s can just drop in and see that nobody is too big, too small or not good enough. “
The economic opportunities in Germany should be used to invest in women’s sports, Radonja thinks, and there should be many more courts named after women*. Maybe soon the letters of well-known basketball players will be emblazoned on even more fields in bright colors.