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VIDEO: Youth football in Ramallah tackles gender barriers

By Jordan Woodgate - January 29, 2016
Section: [Main News] [Videos] [Features]

Close to the central bus station in Ramallah, youth teams warm up for the annual football competition Sawa Sawa, or ’together.’


Tamara Awartani, manager of Sports for Life Palestine which organises the tournament, explains that it "brings young Palestinians, especially girls, together from different parts of Palestine and from different social backgrounds.”


Players have travelled from Balata refugee camp in Nablus, Bethlehem, Shuafat, to participate in the tournament which is supported by the local governance and civil society development program, GIZ, implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic cooperation and development.


"They are given the opportunity to play football competitively and see a different part of the West Bank,” Awartani said, "in an effort to overcome growing social fragmentation."


There are not a few barriers to playing football in Palestine, Omar, 13, tells Palestine Monitor. "It's hard for Palestinian players to actually have a career because Israel stops them leaving,” he said.


In addition, Palestinian teams are often unable to host teams from other countries that don’t maintain diplomatic links to Israel. As a result, the Palestinian national team often has to forfeit its home advantage.

Video by Jordan Woodgate.

For women and girls, however, there are additional barriers to overcome. Violette, 14 explains that "in Palestine there are many stereotypes,” and that when girls play football, people say, "look at her, she’s wearing shorts and playing football, it’s a boys’ game, why is she playing it?”


The rural-urban differences can also be problematic, she said. “Girls in villages they’re not supposed to play soccer, as society says,” Violette added.


Amar from Balata refugee camp contests this, and tells Palestine Monitor that there is plenty of opportunity for girls to play in her village. This is evident on the pitch in her deft control of the ball and her powerful and accurate shot.  


Omar, 13, hails the progress made in women’s football in Palestine saying, "there’s an international team for small girls and big girls, so it’s good. It’s [getting] good.”


Violette hopes to play for the Palestine national women’s team in the future, but “want[s] to be a professional football player in the European countries, because [she has] more opportunity to play there."


Despite the recent progress in the acceptance and popularity of female football, there is a long way to go to keep Palestine’s rising stars playing on home soil, the aspiring footballers told the Palestine Monitor.



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