The team Diyar is part of the supporters’ group of the Bethlehem Academy Dar al Kalina. Diyar is the plural of the Arabic word “dar”, which means “house”, “abode” or “land”. What makes the work of Diyar special is that they enable people, who live in an environment of constant conflict, to live their lives and take on responsibility together. The women’s sports center is unique in Palestine, as it aspires to provide young women from a variety of religious backgrounds with the opportunity to train together and gives them a sense of freedom in a situation they refer to as double repression: The women train under difficult circumstances due to gender specific hierarchies and stereotypes, as well as political conflict. These adversities however are unable to curb their enthusiasm for the game.
The team Orthodox Club from Jordan is a selection of young women from Amman, some of which also play for the national team. The Orthodox Club is one of the oldest sports clubs in Jordan that enables not only men but also women to participate in sport, in line with their motto “Sport for All”. Against all barriers to participation and public prejudice the club aims to raise awareness for women’s football. In addition they provide a safe environment for girls of all ages and abilities to play football and take their first steps in the local leagues. With Prince Ali Ben al Hussein, who helped lay the foundations for the development of women’s sport, they have found a prestigious patron.
It was not the increased professionalism of women’s football in Tunisia that initiated the founding of the “Association sportive des PTT de Bizerte” in 2003, but rather the idea of making women visible through sport. Women should take on the roles of coaches, team assistants and administrators instead of experiencing limited representation when playing in a club’s women’s section. The club has therefore been training women for the last decade to become women’s football players, fair-play winners and more. The first team of ASPTT competes successfully in the top league and additionally plays in local sports events, to raise awareness for and acceptance of women participating in sport.
Just as the first women’s team in Libya could establish itself and was recognised by their national football association, the war in Libya started. The women’s football players have been fighting against the institutional disadvantages for over a decade and then the conflict completely disrupted their activities, leaving them unable to continue training on a regular basis. Despite the difficult circumstances the women continued to organise themselves in small groups, which enabled them to now take up training again and promote the development of women’s football in Libya. For the players football is an expression of freedom and an opportunity to overcome political, cultural and demographic boundaries. The women believe that this is an important step in the right direction for the redevelopment of their country and the difficult process of reconciliation.
The Girls Football Academy (GFA) is the first private football academy for girls in the Middle East. It was founded by Nadia Assaf, who is pursuing her dream of enabling women and girls of all ages to play football. This happens through the creation of safe environments or so called “Safe Spaces”, in which the girls are not subject to pubic repression or political interests. Private initiatives of this kind are essential because there is only limited support available for women’s football by the national football association. In Lebanon, a country that has been ridden by religious conflicts and civil war, the team’s cohesion provides a demonstration of an alternative solution for society, in which everybody is welcome: Politics and religion no longer matter when the women, who come from a variety of religious backgrounds, come together to play football.
About a year ago the enthusiastic women of DISCOVER FOOTBALL realised their dream and founded the DFC Kreuzberg. The DFC aims to provide an alternative to the repressive and hierarchical club structures, which have been experienced by many of the female players in the past. Within just a few weeks over 40 women joined the club, a clear indication that this is a welcomed change of approach in women’s football. The players of the DFC are extremely active both on and off the pitch: they speak out in municipal committees for the rights and representation of women and girls on football pitches and have recently developed a campaign against discrimination.
Last year the DISCOVER FOOTBALL team toured through both Poland and the Ukraine to find out how women organise themselves in football and use it during times, when the public’s attention is focused on men’s football. We had the privilege to get to know women who acted as ambassadors for women’s football on the streets of Kiew and Warsaw, where they promoted their sport and gender equality. The actions of Irina Vanat impressed us in particular, as she single-handedly developed a women’s football association as a reaction to the lack of funding available. A selection of the girls and women of the association together with a number of amateur players from Poland will take part in the DISCOVER FOOTBALL tournament as a newly mixed all-star team, where they will hopefully experience football’s power to unite people for a second time.
Wadi Degla is a great example of acceptance and recognition of women. The women’s team, founded in 2007, has seen significant sporting success: A total of four times they have been crowned champions of the first Arabian women’s league. The good financial situation of the club, which enables it to pay its players and coaches, is bound to have contributed to this success. In addition society is slowly but surely accepting that football is also a sport for women. As a result of this, some matches of the country’s top women’s league were attended by up to 5000 spectators and occasionally these have also been broadcasted on television. In some places football has already been introduces as a sport for girls in schools and the Egyptian female referees officiate on a regular basis in the men’s second league. Despite these very encouraging developments football is still far from being a mass participation sport for women: It relies heavily on elite performance development through international associations and private investors. There is a lack of wide spread socio-political institutionalism and recognition of women’s football. In addition, the recent political developments are having an impact on the lives of female footballers: In 2010/2011 the entire women’s league stopped operating for a whole season. This raises the question if periods of social unrest resort to these organised club structures and provide new opportunities for these, or if they provide temporary throw-backs for the women involved and their sport. Either way, providing a sense of normality and safe space to return to in times of political instability deserves particular recognition and support.
Das libysche Nationalteam ist nicht für DISCOVER FOOTBALL 2013 nach Berlin gereist, nachdem der libysche Fußballverband die Teilnahme kurzfristig abgesagt hat.
Dies nehmen wir zu unserem Bedauern zur Kenntnis und hoffen, dass der Kontakt zu den Spielerinnen trotzdem bestehen bleibt.