Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Palestinian women’s team take on Bohs in ‘historic’ match

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The Palestinian women’s football team will play their first ever match in Europe this evening when they take part in a friendly fixture at Dublin’s Dalymount Park.

Bohemian Football Club said they invited the team as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to raise funds for humanitarian efforts in the region.

Manager Deema Said said the match was an important fixture for both footballing and political reasons.

“This may look like it’s a football match, but it’s much more than that for us. It’s a way to convey our message and to like make sure that the solidarity between the Palestinian people and the Irish people will always exist.

“As a team manager, it’s been crazy to get all the players together. We haven’t had the chance to practice all together, all the full 22 members of the team until now, and some of our players have not been able to make it to Ireland as well.

“One of the biggest obstacles we face as Palestinians and Palestinian athletes is freedom of movement within the Palestinian territories. From a football perspective, that does affect the harmony of the team and the level of the team, but at the same time, this is how we live as Palestinians.

“We’re used to that, and we are very resilient as people.”

Deema Said said the fixture is much more than a football match

The game takes place against the backdrop of the war in Gaza which is now in its eighth month.

Captain Mira Natour said the war has impacted on the players.

“A lot of girls have different stories. Some lost someone of their families, some have brothers or cousin who have gone to jail. Despite the challenges and despite the circumstances we are facing, we have the right to play soccer, we have the rights to travel, we deserve respect”.

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The conflict has caused Ms Said to step back from football.

“Me personally, I’ve stopped playing like I used. I was the team captain not so long ago. After the war happened, I decided to stop because I could not do it physically. Like mentally it was too much.

“I can see how hard it is for other players as well. It’s really hard for them to focus and be 100% mentally prepared for the match.

“We do our best as a management team but it’s always challenging”.

The match is taking place on the 76th anniversary of Nakba – which means “catastrophe” in Arabic and refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Goalkeeper Charlotte Phillips, who is originally from Palestine but now lives in Toronto, Canada, said the occasion is a significant one for the team.

Charlotte Phillips

“We’re playing on Nakba day, which is obviously a very significant day for Palestinians and for other people around the world, especially people in the diaspora, which I’m part of.

“My family were kicked out twice, once in 1948 and then once again, in the 67 war, they were displaced again.

“To be playing on Nakba day, it’s something I can’t describe, especially having my grandparents travelling here who were kicked out to now come and see us play. It’s unbelievable.”

Mira Natour

The fixture has given the Bohemian players a chance to learn more about the situation in the middle east.

Player Robin Baird say its an event she is proud to be a part of.

“It’s a huge event here, which I suppose shows the solidarity between the two countries.

“I think all the girls were just ecstatic to be a part of an event that will most definitely go down history.

“Walking out into a sold out Dalymount – I’ve ever experienced that before and probably only ever played in front of 400 people”.

Robin Baird

Nakba: The ‘catastrophe’ marked by Palestinians explained

The head of Palestinian Football Jibril Rajoub said he believed sport has a role in forwarding the political cause of the Palestinian people.

“We are coming here with a message of hope, with a message to Europe, that it’s the time to make justice to settle this conflict.

“Football is a global language connecting people and building a bridge. Having a women’s national team from Palestine playing in Europe is historic.

“This is an effective, great event, I believe that our justice could also be settled through sport”.

Tonight’s match is sold out, but fans are being encouraged to purchase a stream of the game or a non-attendance ticket, or to make a donation online.

The proceeds will go to Palestinian humanitarian causes including Palestine Sport for Life, Medical Aid for Palestinians and ACLAÍ Palestine.

“This amazingly kind, historic and most thoughtful gesture by the people of Ireland, and has been received with the greatest of admiration and appreciation by the Palestinian people worldwide, and especially the Palestinian women,” Dr Bassam Nassr of the Palestinian Community in Ireland said.

“We are forever grateful to Ireland and to all the Irish people who have yet again led the way and showed the world how to express tangible support and solidarity with the people of Palestine .”

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The team have visited Áras an Uachtaráin, the Mansion House, Glendalough and the Book of Kells.

Tomorrow they will be hosted at the Mansion House by the Lord Mayor for a Palestinian breakfast.

They will also visit the Botanic Gardens and the Palestinians Ambassador to Ireland before returning home.

A mural erected at Dalymount Park

Ms Natour said that the welcome she has received here will also stay with her.

“Being in Ireland is like being home in Palestine here. You can express your feelings, you can say I’m a Palestinian, you know, because in Palestine, I can’t give any symbol that I’m Palestinian.

“Even I can’t wear colours that have a Palestinian flag. But here it’s like I’m living in my home.”

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