Pales­tinian girl foot­ballers break cul­tural bar­ri­ers

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION - By Hos­sam Ezze­dine

DEIR JARIR, Pales­tine: Dozens of young Pales­tinian girls are prac­tic­ing their foot­balling skills on a makeshift vil­lage pitch, en­joy­ing an op­por­tu­nity de­nied their moth­ers’ gen­er­a­tion in the so­cially con­ser­va­tive West Bank.

Gen­der bar­ri­ers and re­li­gious taboos mean that the sight of women wear­ing foot­ball kit, even girls, is still shock­ing to some Pales­tini­ans who re­gard it as a men’s game.

Yet women’s foot­ball has de­vel­oped sig­nif­i­cantly since the first Pales­tinian team was formed in 2009.

There are now six adult teams play­ing in an out­door league and a dozen more in an in­door league.

Around 400 girls over the age of 14 are reg­is­tered as play­ers, and more and more younger girls are tak­ing up the sport.

The 40 or so girls be­tween 10 and 14 train­ing in the vil­lage of Deir Jarir, out­side Ra­mal­lah, have to make do with just six balls be­tween them and their shirts have the name of the boys’ team on the back. But un­der the watch­ful eye of coach Ra­jaa Ham­dan, they are learn­ing how to trap and pass a ball, drib­ble be­tween cones and jump for head­ers.

Ham­dan said she had been des­per­ate to play as a child but was pre­vented by so­cial at­ti­tudes in the vil­lage. Now aged 32, she de­cided to set up a team for girls.

“When I was young, the cir­cum­stances did not al­low me to prac­tice, but the idea stayed in my mind,” she said. “So I said to my­self as I didn’t play when I was small, why doesn’t my vil­lage have a team for girls like for the boys?”

Us­ing Face­book, she urged girls to sign up and was sur­prised to have 30 vol­un­teers al­most im­me­di­ately.

“I was afraid of prob­lems with the vil­lagers, but so far there have been no se­ri­ous ones,” she said.

Salma Fares, 12, said she was proud to be part of the team.

“I am very happy to prac­tice foot­ball with girls like me. It is my right,” she said. “I am happy they formed a team in the vil­lage for girls, like for the boys.”

Amal Alaa, 13, echoed her en­thu­si­asm. “I love foot­ball a lot and when I saw the an­nounce­ment of the team, Iasked­my­par­entstoal­lowme­to­join. My dream is to be­come cap­tain.”

Ham­dan said she was happy with the suc­cess of her project but wor­ried the girls would give up on foot­ball as they grew older. “I am happy be­cause I re­al­ized my dream of get­ting the girls out of the re­pres­sion they face,” she said. “In our cul­ture and tra­di­tions, when girls get older they ei­ther wear a hi­jab or get mar­ried, so they will not play the game.”

The pres­i­dent of the vil­lage foot­ball club, Youssef Mousa, said he had been pleas­antly sur­prised by vil­lagers’ re­ac­tion so far.

“When the idea of set­ting up the team started, we were afraid of the sub­ject be­cause it was not easy to set up a girls’ foot­ball team in a con­ser­va­tive vil­lage. But so far there has been no prob­lem.”

The 40 or so girls train­ing in the vil­lage of Deir Jarir have to make do with just six balls be­tween them and their shirts have the name of the boys’ team on the back.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.