Tag Archives: Palestinian soccer

Women’s Soccer in Palestine

Yay, another underdog team to root for. I suppose it’ll be even harder to find their gear than the Palestinian men’s team’s.

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 Al Ram, just north of Jerusalem, signs of the Israeli occupation are never far away. The stadium sits half a block from Israel’s West Bank separation barrier. Though it is made up mostly of a fence, barbed wire and ditches, here in this urban environment it takes the form of a high, seemingly endless concrete wall.

But at Monday’s soccer game, Palestinians came together in a more peaceful endeavor for the cause. Though nonpartisan, the event clearly bore the stamp of the non-Islamist camp that holds sway in the West Bank.

Watching over the players on the field were huge posters of the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas. A couple of images of King Abdullah II of Jordan had been hastily added. Several dignitaries attended, including the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad.

FIFA, the international governing body of football, as soccer is known in most of the world, also sent a representative, in a salute to the Palestinian commitment to the sport.

Most of the women played bareheaded, though one Palestinian and a few of the Jordanians wore hijabs and tights under their shorts. The Palestinian team’s captain, Honey Thaljieh, 24, is a Christian from Bethlehem. The youngest player, Aya Khatib, 14, is a Muslim from a refugee camp near Jericho.

For such a varied cross section of Palestinian society, an unusual harmony prevailed.

“There are no politics involved,” said Nur Nabulsi, 17, a member of the Palestinian team. “We play only for Palestine.”

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Filed under miscellaneous

Iraqi Natl Soccer Team Finally Able to Play in Iraq Again

Story in the BBC News online.

Forced by violence at home to play all its games abroad, the Iraqi national side ended its six-year exile on Friday in the northern city of Irbil.

Fans who had followed the fortunes of their team on TV roared deliriously as they saw the first players jog on to the pitch.

Chants of “Iraq, Iraq” rang through stands which felt, in the blazing afternoon heat, like the rim of an exploding volcano.

“Sport was under sanctions,” yelled Iraq’s most famous football fan, a man from Baghdad known only by one name, Khaddouri. “Now the embargo has been lifted.”

Iraq’s national team is a regional superpower. Traditionally one of the strongest sides in the Middle East, in 2007 they were crowned Asian champions after defeating Saudi Arabia.

The victory coincided with the climax of the sectarian conflict that engulfed Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003. Fans celebrated in the streets, briefly defying the threat of bombings that had become a daily norm.

The Palestinian team is one of the weakest in the region. It has developed fitfully, with the movements of its players constantly curtailed by the conflict with Israel.

At the game in Irbil, no Iraqi fans commented on the footballing disparity between the two teams. Instead, they focused on what they saw as a bond with the Palestinians – another Middle Eastern society brutalised by violence.

As the visiting team stepped on to the turf, the stadium loudspeakers urged the crowd to welcome them. The stands obliged, erupting in passionate cries of “Long Live Palestine!”

Parts of Iraq may now be safe enough to host a foreign team but the Palestinians’ home is not. Like the Iraqi side a few years ago, the players must ply their trade abroad.

With few away fans accompanying them, they rely on charitable cheers from the home crowd.

Adjusting the Palestinian scarf around his neck, veteran Iraq fan Khaddouri said: “The Palestinians are our brethren. If they can send their team to Iraq, so can everyone else.”

I’m such a sucker for a story like this. Amazing Iraqi national soccer team survives the brutal reign of Uday Hussein, the invasion and occupation, is forced to play abroad for years yet improves as a regional champion, returns to its homeland, plays a friendly game against another team struggling against harsh realities. I love to see patriotic Iraqis putting a lie to Bush administration brainless propaganda that they all hate each other and that Iraq would splinter apart along religious and ethnic lines. And I love that their first game was against the Palestinian team.

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Filed under arab, iraq soccer

Tracking Down a Football Team Jersey

A notion popped into my head to try to track down a football (soccer) jersey for the Palestinian national team. Because it turns out they have a team. I’m not crazy about their colors, but talk about an underdog!

It turns out that there is nary a Palestinian football jersey to be found. Here’s a blog post from last year on a blog I haven’t visited before laying out the difficulties. A couple people posted links, but those jerseys are sold out at this time or the links are broken.

It’s okay. I have faith that with the internet, all things are possible. In the fullness of time. And that’s my last cliche on the subject.


Filed under arab, miscellaneous