A step and kick in the right direction

Any of us who has played a team sport understands the concept of home field advantage and want it for our most important games. Recently, the Palestinian women’s national soccer team got to play their first international match played at home.  There is argument about the nature of “home”, of statehood, of national identity, etc. for Palestinians and others in the Middle East. That is an argument that will not be addressed here. We are more interested in how this game and these teams run counter to places in the world where women and girls still find it quite difficult to even get the opportunity to play. It is more than gratifying to see these young women not only get an opportunity to play, but to play in front of the peers, who surely had a great time themselves at this special game.

The full article, including a great short video, can be found at the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/world/middleeast/29westbank.html?_r=5&ref=world, with an excerpt below.


Published: October 28, 2009

Al Ram Journal

On One Field, Two Goals: Equality and Statehood

AL RAM, West Bank — Given the sheer exhilaration of the cheering, flag-waving, anthem-singing crowd packed into the soccer stadium in this otherwise drab West Bank town one afternoon this week, one could have been forgiven for thinking that an independent Palestinian state had just been born.

The Palestinians were playing the Jordanians. But more significant was that the women’s teams were playing, and for the Palestinian side it was the first international match played outdoors at home.

In front of a roaring crowd of at least 10,000 — about three-quarters women and a quarter equally enthusiastic men — the Palestinian players imparted a collective sense of achievement that had eluded their male compatriots for a long time.

With the peace process stalled and the Palestinian polity divided, the atmosphere is generally dour. Yet the game turned into an exuberant carnival of social liberation and national pride. The line between the dual quests for equality and statehood became increasingly blurred as the women chased the ball.

“In our culture,” said Rukayya Takrori, 50, the Palestinian team’s manager, “Palestinian women work side by side with the men in the fields and factories. They fight together, demonstrate together. Sometimes she takes the place of the man because he is in jail or is in the mountains, hiding.”

This game, she said, proved that “Palestinian women can do everything — even football.”

(The article continues at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/world/middleeast/29westbank.html?_r=5&ref=world)