Girls basketball was very popular in Gao. The northern population of Mali has been known (even before the rebel takeover) for being more conservative Muslims, however, citizens fully embraced girls sports. For the past 5 years, a local businessman has funded an annual girls basketball competition, and teams from around the city competed (his sponsorship bought uniforms, basketballs, payed for refs etc). The competition ran as recently as 2011. However, in April this year the businessman who funded the competition was forced to flee at the threat of his life at the hands of the MNLA. Now that the MNLA has been ousted by the strict Sharia enforcing MUJAO, girls are no longer allowed to play basketball. Sharia is most felt by the new impositions on the freedom and rights of women and girls.