Inside the Middle East
November 14, 2009
Posted: 703 GMT

By James Montague, CNN

Al Ram, West Bank (CNN) - The Faisal al Husseini football stadium was packed, two hours before kick off, with a noisy sea of Palestinian flags and white hijabs.

Jordan's captain charges down the wing as they take control of the match. Both teams have Christian and Muslim player, some of whom cover when they play. Photo: James Montague/CNN.
Jordan's captain charges down the wing as they take control of the match. Both teams have Christian and Muslim player, some of whom cover when they play. Photo: James Montague/CNN.

Football matches are always a big deal in the West Bank, but this game was more significant than most. 10,000 women had flocked to the stadium, on the outskirts of East Jerusalem and a mere few meters from the separation barrier that snakes around the West Bank, to watch a historic football match few would have believed possible just a few years ago: the Palestinian women's national team were to play Jordan in their first ever home international.

Both teams gave laps of honor before the start of the game to mark an occasion that is rare in the Middle East. Football is hugely popular amongst women in the region but the development of the game has largely been held back by a social conservatism that disapproves of women playing what are deemed 'men's' sports.

In Kuwait, attempts to set up a women's national team was met with outrage in the country's parliament. The move was halted after Waleed al Tabtabae, a hard line Islamist MP who chairs a committee charged with weeding out 'phenomena strange to society' decided that a women's football team was 'un-Islamic'.

"Committee members expressed their indignation...and total rejection of the idea of the women's football team on the grounds that football is not suitable for women," Tabtabae told the Kuwait Times.

The UAE has only this year launched its own national team. A handful of teams exist in Saudi Arabia, although they are confined to the more liberal university campuses and have to be played in front of small, women-only crowds. In Iran women are banned from attending football matches and have to wear the hijab when they play, even in tournaments abroad.

The Palestinian team has had its own, unique problems to deal with. Set up in 2003 at Bethlehem University, Israeli movement restrictions meant it was impossible to practice on the West Bank's sole grass pitch in Jericho. Instead, they had to train on a concrete handball court and play against local boy's teams. Read full article

Filed under: Jordan •Sports •West Bank •Women

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Hope   November 15th, 2009 3:12 am ET

Kudos to the Palestinian women's national soccer team..Wish them all but the best.

earle,florida   November 15th, 2009 4:04 am ET

"tis fine,...isn't it, to bestow all the grudgery of birthing,child rearing,head chef,house cleaner,food gatherer,clothing/shoe mender,night-time companion ,endless inspirational-spiritual confidant,and character builder...but unthinkable to allow the fair sex a few moments in's most joyous,glorious,and precious period....too relish innocent youthful activities amongst their female peers....all to soon, will be embedded memories lapsing through fleeting years embracing unknowingly what soon will be cherished as an eternity's time.... when the beautiful women come of I say to you fathers,brothers,and all male siblings...let your best half have a small-part of their youth to indulge frugally their athletic/physical enjoyment, is all but a collection of a few unforgettable moments"

A. Smith, Oregon   November 15th, 2009 6:51 am ET

The West should applaud the determination and courage of these Muslim women to defy Muslim men that routinely deny and severely punish women that act in such a independent manner.

Although it is beyond the reach of many news Media Outlets, it would be interesting to interview these same Muslim women a year from now if any of them are still alive.

The Bush family has sacrificed so many brave American men and women protecting Kuwait, its truly amazing how much core Kuwaiti values differ from core American values.

Mohab   November 21st, 2009 10:02 am ET

I wonder how come a news leader as CNN does not mention anything about the massacre that the Egyptian fans were subjected to by the Algerians fans following the playoff the took place in Sudan on saturday. After the match the Egyptian fans were attacked by the Algerian fans with knifes, hatchets and rocks and their buses were completely destroyed while they were on their way to board their planes back to Egypt. Please investiagte this incident and bring it to the light, as you have always done in many similar incidents.

Shame_on_anyone_who_supports_Israel   November 21st, 2009 12:57 pm ET

Israel has ordered construction work on an internationally financed football stadium being built for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to be halted.

Palestinian municipal authorities in al-Bireh, near Ramallah, have been told they lack the correct permit to build.

This is because Israel has designated some of the plot for the planned stadium as under its exclusive control.

If Palestinian officials do not comply with the order, Israel could demolish the arena.

The stadium's development has been financed by the world football's governing body, Fifa, as well as France, Germany and Gulf states.

Palestinians have said that Israel's issuing of the stop-work order is unreasonable and politically motivated.

Israeli officials have said they are working with their Palestinian counterparts to resolve the issue.

Experts from Fifa, France, Germany and Gulf states can't receive the correct permit to build if it is to help Palestinian sport.

Nobody in the world should play sport with Israel until such scandals are resolved.

miriam   November 22nd, 2009 10:51 am ET


All building in Israel and the territories is subject to an enormous amount of bureaurocracy.
Almost every project has its stops and starts often due to miscommunications that are usually straightened out.
Only a select few of these incidents make it to the media, usually for political motives so that they will attract responses like yours.

Shame_on_anyone_who_supports_Israel   November 22nd, 2009 2:50 pm ET

Miriam if you find a honest bone in your body, please look after it. As it will be the only one you have.

When was the last time we witnessed Jewish houses being demolished and the land given back to Palestinians? Never, even though it is Israel which has illegally annexed Palestinian land according to international law.

Naturally you will claim Israels land grabs are not illegal because you do not recognize international law. But your defense simply portrays criminality. How would you like to be treated with such discrimination?

These things happen when cowardly Israel sits smugly with Americas enormous armament supply behind it.

No more American tax aid for Israel and no more blood in the name of the promised land!!!

miriam   November 23rd, 2009 2:41 pm ET


Jewish houses are demolished regularly when they have been built illegally.
The same day last week when the world had its attention of Arab house demolitions, Jewish homes were also being demolished in Judea.
What you choose to witness is very selective, politically so.
The international law you talk about is not international law but the inaccurate slogans and claims of those who routinely cover up their own violations of real international law.

miriam   November 23rd, 2009 2:49 pm ET


4 years ago Israel demolished entire Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip.

Look what that resulted in!

But then I assume that is the society you want to see in the ME, Jew-free and chaos.

John A   November 25th, 2009 1:29 pm ET

Miriam Israel left Gaza and then............
Israel built a wall. The wall does not follow the green line boarder. The wall is built on Palestinian land and confiscates parts of Gaza which have now been illegally annexed by Israel.

Israel bombs the remains of Gaza into rubble.

Then Israel claims the Palestinians were better off under Israeli rule.

miriam   November 25th, 2009 3:58 pm ET

John A,

There is no wall between Israel and Gaza.

There is a wall between Egypt and Gaza.

Between Israel and Gaza there is a fence that was built between 1994 and 1996 after Oslo and the withdrawal of Israel from 80% of Gaza.
Preceding the second Intifada, the Gazans removed large parts of the fence and proceeded to pass through to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

It is Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank who are claiming that life was better under Israeli rule.

Israel has not annexed any of Gaza.
Israel disengaged in 2005.

There is no Israeli in Gaza except for the kidnapped Gilad Shalit.

Filipe   November 25th, 2009 9:59 pm ET

John A,

What wall did Israel build around Gaza after they left and turned over control to the PA???

Egypt built the wall around Gaza in 1948!!

But all you have to read the details of the Gaza, their industry, GDP, infrastucture, economy, medical and educational institutions between 1967 and 1994-when Gaza was handed to PA control-and you would see if they were really better off then-–or when they were ruled by Egypt-after 1994 when they were given authority to run their own affairs.

Don't rely on "Israeli claims" -investigate for yourself there John boy!!

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