Cheers for Girls’ Soccer at Musaddar Sports Club
"I see the girls smiling from ear to ear. It makes me proud." --Eman, girls soccer coach
It is a beautiful summer morning in Gaza. It is early and still quiet in the village of Musaddar, located in the center of the territory. The tranquility is broken by the sounds of cheering that can be heard when approaching the village sports facility. The shouts this morning belong to the 25 girls playing soccer inside.
Three years ago, Anera completed construction of Musaddar Sports Club to provide a space for young people in Gaza to play soccer in a safe, clean and welcoming environment. One goal of the project was to increase opportunities for girls to participate in sports programs.
Sports clubs and sports in general are often confined to boys and men in Gaza. In conservative communities, traditions restrict girls from playing sports in public facilities or out on the street. Some families prevent their daughters from going to sports clubs, doubting the safety of the place or the sports being played. “Boys can play and practice anywhere. It’s not against the norm in Gaza,” says 15-year-old Nagham, a soccer player at Musaddar.
However, other Palestinian families in Gaza believe it’s their duty to encourage their daughters to play sports and invest in their talents. Dressed all in pink, Shams, another 15-year-old soccer player, talks about her mom. "When I oversleep, my mom comes in to wake me up and motivate me to start the day with soccer class at Musaddar."
Every Sunday and Tuesday Nagham plays soccer. “We can’t wait to play,” she says. Her friend Enas adds, "To have a place where we can be active, have fun, and play soccer freely and safely is the best way to spend our summer vacation.”
Soccer is More Than Just a Sport
Nagham, Enas, and Shams unanimously agree that playing sports makes their lives better. “When we play soccer, we gain positive energy and get rid of any negative feelings we have because of life in Gaza."
For many youth here, soccer is a stress-reliever and a way to let out anger or sadness through physical activity. Most importantly, playing soccer helps build confidence, teamwork and motivates Gaza’s youth to dream for a better future. Shams says, “When I get older, I will become a fashion designer, so I can have my own athletic brand."
"Early on,” says Eman, the girls’ coach at Musaddar, “I learned how important it is to practice a sport. I decided to study physical education at university. Sports requires knowledge and skill and I can make a difference in the world with sports."
As a female coach, Eman has gone through many challenges on her path. Ultimately she believes that no matter how many difficulties young women in Gaza face, sports can set the soul free. Her dream is to coach an all-women’s team from Palestine that competes in international soccer tournaments.
"After playing soccer, I see the girls smiling from ear to ear. This is one of my biggest achievements,” Eman tells us. “It makes me proud."