‘Nobody Can Kill Our Dream’ – Palestinian Women on Their Way to the Top of Asian Football

Palestine women’s national football team. (Photo: Supplied)

By Romana Rubeo  

“We only have one regret: there are no athletes from Gaza to play with us. We play thinking that they will play with us again, soon.”

This is what Natali Shaheen told The Palestine Chronicle soon after the decisive win against Syria, which ensured the Palestine women’s national football team the qualification for the semifinal of the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship on Tuesday.

On the eve of the much-anticipated match against Jordan, we spoke with Shaheen, the 28-year-old Palestinian athlete from Jericho who now lives in Italy but has never given up on her dream of seeing Palestinian football on top of the world.

“It is not easy for us, because we could not meet before. We met in Jordan and we flew together to Saudi Arabia, which is hosting the tournament,” Shaheen said.

Indeed, all players live in the diaspora outside Palestine, or inside the occupied Palestinian territories and in Palestine 1948. Due to Israeli military restrictions, Palestinian athletes do not have freedom of movement, creating a major obstacle to their training and their sports career. 

But, according to Shaheen, this can be turned into a strength. “For us, it is always a great honor to represent Palestine and the Palestinian people. We also feel that we represent Palestinian women, and that makes us proud.”

Having to Fight

“When we entered the field, we knew we had to fight,” Shaheen said. “We had to be on top of the game to show that Palestinian women exist, and they have talent and passion.”

“It is extremely difficult, what the Palestinian people are going through is a tragedy and we know that there cannot be true happiness knowing what is happening in Gaza. But this pushed us to fight as much as we could to get at least one child, one girl, to smile thinking of our sports achievements,” she added. 

The genocide in Gaza didn’t discourage the young athletes but rather inspired them to fight for a place among nations. Sadness, however, remains the main theme among all members of the team. 

Reaching the Semifinals: Palestine Women’s Football Team Winning in WAFF Championship


“Our athletes come from all areas of Palestine, but there is one empty spot and this fills our hearts with sadness. There could be no athletes from Gaza. We hope that in the future we will have Palestinian girls representing the Gaza Strip, the talents, the passion, the dreams of all women from Gaza,” Shaheen said.

“Nobody can kill or suppress these qualities. Nobody. Not the occupation, not anybody else. We are stronger than anything else and we can face all kinds of obstacles through our determination and our strength.”

To make it to the final, the Fidaʼiyat, or freedom fighters, will have to beat Jordan on Tuesday, then go up against the winner of the Lebanon vs. Nepal match, which will be held on the same day.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appeared in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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1 Comment

  1. Good! it’s good seeing these strong women being happy; celebrating life, success, and they are fearless! more power to you!
    ( from USA )

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