Equatorial Guinea star Genoveva Añonma reflects on “gender testing” and her dehumanizing journey to the top

One of Africa’s greatest players, Genoveva Añonma of Equatorial Guinea, recently spoke with the BBC and recalled some of the difficulties she endured growing up in the game. She looked back on problems that developed with her mother, who didn’t think it was right for women to play soccer, and other hurdles she’s been forced to leap over to reach her former Player of the Year status.

Her most disturbing and heartbreaking memory was of an incident following the 2008 African Women’s Championship. Immediately after the final — a match hat saw Añonma score the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over South Africa — tournament officials acted on accusations from opposing teams that she was not actually a woman.

Rather than access medical documents, or conduct blood testing — which is bizarre enough, but standard procedure, apparently, because gender accusations are commonplace in women’s soccer in some parts of the world — Añonma was forced to strip naked to prove her gender. Members of the Confederation of African Football, not even medical personnel, sat and watched a humiliated Añonma cry through the ordeal to get their answer.

She’s been so dominant that the only recourse for her competitors has been to stoop so low as to question her genetic make up. Añonma says she’s been through similar accusations so many times that she she expects them and has gotten used to the ordeals, but has never been asked to submit to less invasive testing to prove who she is. It’s an opportunity she says she’d welcome, if only to avoid having to deal with similar claims again.