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Jewish Journal

A West Bank story: female football stars

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 15, 2009 | 1:15 pm

It’s not the kind of football I’ll be watching later today. But footy is big pretty much everywhere outside of the United States. That’s definitely the case in the Mideast, from where comes this story about the first international home game for the Palestinian women’s team:

To put the match in context, as many as 16,000 people crammed in to watch Palestine and Jordan play. When the US women’s team last played at home, a 1-0 victory over Canada in New York last July, just 8,433 fans turned up.

But not everyone in attendance was there for football. Outside several thousand men who couldn’t get in clambered on to surrounding rooftops, others scrambled up nearby wire fences, whilst some even crowded on top of a parked bus. Although a different type of union was on their minds. “All these men are here to see the women and I’m here to see the chicks too,” admitted Abdullah Alawad, a 20 year old architecture student. “Maybe the girls are here to see the guys too,” he added rather hopefully.

The game itself was a surprisingly tetchy affair, with two players stretchered off after being on the receiving end of several crunching tackles, much to the anger of the Jordanian team’s (male) coach. His mood wasn’t helped when Palestine won two dubious penalties. A late Jordanian equalizer secured the 2-2 draw they deserved. But for the women watching, the result was less important than the game itself. After the final whistle both sets of players hugged and embarked on another lap of honor in front of an ecstatic crowd.

“We want to prove that we are better than the men at football,” explained Asala el Wazeer, an 18 year old student who stood with her friends in the crowd. “It has taken us years to get to this point. We are very proud of the [Palestinian] team.”

In a way, she was right. Palestine had played Jordan in the first ever men’s international exactly one year previously. They only managed to score once. But for Thaljieh, held aloft on the shoulders of her team mates in front of a crowd that included the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad, the match sent a powerful message to the outside world.

“This is important and shows the world that we don’t care about the barriers and the checkpoints,” Thaljieh shouted over the noise.

The story, either by design or coincidence, is bereft of politics or religion. Read the rest here.

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