Israeli blockade and military checkpoints shatter World Cup dreams of Gazan girls
A girl from Gaza is left wondering if she needs to change her nationality in order to cross the military checkpoints and watch the women's World Cup. She was recently denied entry at an airport checkpoint.
Excitement is building for the FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, scheduled to begin on July 20th. However, the Israeli blockade on Gaza is preventing young female fans from attending the 2023 tournament.
Despite the efforts of many to secure tickets and travel to the event, the situation in Gaza remains dire, leaving these fans with little hope of being able to attend.
"Girls in Gaza only want the same opportunities as other girls to pursue their dreams, play the game, and watch it like everyone else"
Sara AbuHwidi, a 19-year-old girl from Gaza, shares her experience of the difficulties that girls in Gaza face.
Sara recounts a story from last November when her family planned to travel to Qatar for the World Cup. "We'd booked our tickets and were ready to go but were denied entry at the military checkpoints."
Sara's father, who has Egyptian citizenship, was able to enter, leaving the rest of the family feeling shocked and frustrated as they had to return home.
Sara's story is a familiar one but FIFA doesn't seem to care.
Layan Al-Dahshan, a passionate football fan from Gaza, told The New Arab that no other sport makes her feel as lively and energetic as football does. She spoke about her frustration at not being allowed to travel to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. "We really wanted to go. It was the first time an Arab country had hosted the World Cup."
Although Layan's disappointment remains palpable, Layan and her family were able to create their own joy. They would gather before every game, preparing the atmosphere, getting some popcorn, and having some cushions to squeeze when matches became tense. "The atmosphere was incredible. I am so grateful to my family for creating such wonderful energy," says Tala, Layan's sister. "Not only that, but it was also a time to relax and forget about the difficult circumstances we live in, including the bitter reality of occupation."
Gazan girls face multiple challenges that prevent them from pursuing their love for football. The lack of financial stability in the region is one of the major barriers.
Due to inadequate funding, there are no private stadiums for girls to play and enjoy their favourite sport. The Palestinian FA has requested support from FIFA, but unfortunately, no response has been received. Additionally, the Israeli occupation hinders the girls' ability to travel, depriving them of opportunities to realise their dreams. Despite these challenges, Gazan girls remain determined to pursue their passion for football.
Football is supposed to be for everyone, regardless of their background, according to FIFA's statement. However, FIFA has failed to uphold this belief and should be condemned for its lack of attention to certain areas of the game, such as Gaza. Players like Khalid Abuhabel and managers like Sobhi Mabrook know that their dream of playing football at an international level has become impossible.
Girls in Gaza only want the same opportunities as other girls to pursue their dreams, play the game, and watch it like everyone else. During Qatar's World Cup, the Moroccan National Team made us all proud and showed their support for Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza. Other teams and fans from all over the world also raised the Palestinian flag during matches, including Tunisia and English and Argentinian supporters.
Palestinians in Gaza hope that the Women's World Cup will continue to receive exceptional support, regardless of its location. As the opening whistle blows, the sound of drums and cheers from fans will fill the stadium and FIFA banners of all colours and sizes will be displayed to call for an end to all forms of discrimination and racism.
However, it is equally important to acknowledge the ongoing unjustifiable cruelty, unbearable violations, and piercing discrimination in Israel. Without addressing these issues, global campaigns to eradicate discrimination will be futile.
Abubaker Abed is a Palestinian journalist, writer, and translator from Deir al-Balah Refugee Camp in Gaza
Follow him on Twitter: @AbubakerAbedW
Eman Alhaj Ali is a Palestinian journalist, writer, and translator from Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in Gaza
Follow her on Twitter: @EmanAlhajAli1