Founder and first captain of the Palestinian National Team and Bethlehem’s local team “Diyar”, active member of the Palestinian Women’s Football National Committee and the Supreme Council of Youth and Sports, employee of the FIFA Women’s Football Development Section.
“But our soul and our minds are free!”
During the Second Intifada [period of intensified Israeli-Palestinian violence, 2000-2005], life in Palestine came close to a complete stop. Despite this, Honey Thaljieh managed to lay the foundation for women’s football in Palestine.
When Honey was a child, she was playing football in the streets. At that time, there were no other girls who played football. Under no circumstances were they supposed to play football outside with the boys or, worse yet, walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. Thus, they called her ‘Hassan’ (meaning ‘like a boy’). When she entered university in 2002, right during the Second Intifada, Honey finally got to know other people that were interested in founding a women’s football team. They decided to get the ball rolling from that point on. It was the starting point of the team “Diyar”. Others call them the “Dream Team” because it had emerged from both difficult political circumstances during the Second Intifada and a society dominated by men.
“We would tell the girls, ‘we are one-of-a-kind team. If you play football, however, that is something truly special.’ It was the best argument to win them over. That’s how everything started back then.” Since then, Honey has become member of several decision-making football associations such as the Palestinian Women’s Football National Committee and the FIFA Women’s Football Development Section.
“Even our neighbors criticized my parents for my behaviour, which led my father to start saying annoying things like, ‘Why do you have to play football? I don’t want that!’ I didn’t care much about what people said – I loved football too much for that, and decided to use it for social change.”
City: Bethlehem, Palestine
Founded in: 2002
Greatest success: Assisting in the establishment of the first women’s football league in Palestine consisting of 16 teams in 2014
“The sky is our limit!”
The players of Palestinian football clubs report on how the political conflict in their home country splits their teams – and how they won’t let it bring them down.
The team Diyar is part 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 enables young women from a variety of religious backgrounds with the opportunity to practice together. It gives them a sense of freedom in a situation they refer to as double repression: The women play football under difficult circumstances due to gender specific hierarchies and stereotypes as well as political conflicts. These adversities however are unable to curb their enthusiasm for the game.
“Being a football player means having a second family that I can rely on.”
“Football is the path I chose and the goal I must achieve. It is like a birthmark that I‘ll have for the rest of my life. But no one believed in me. However, after proving in the field what a fighter I am, everybody was proud. In Football miracles can happen, even in the last moment.”