The first football match in the Palestinian Women’s League took place in Ramallah on February 10, 2011: Diyar Bethlehem versus Seryiet Ramallah. Swiss photographer Meinrad Schade followed the team on and off the pitch a year later.
The team of Diyar Bethlehem comprises Christians and Muslims. While Christians are a small minority in the West Bank, their percentage in Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus, is 35-40 per cent, although their number is decreasing. Despite tensions between Christians and Muslims in general, this does not seem to be the case for the female football players of Diyar Bethlehem.
Only one of the team wears a headscarf and long tights when playing. Her younger sister, on the other hand – who is the goalkeeper – does not cover her hair.
Five players of Diyar Bethlehem are also members of the Palestinian National Team. For these young women, football is also an opportunity to escape the feeling of being locked inside the West Bank. Occasionally the Palestinian National Team and Diyar Bethlehem play in tournaments and exhibition games abroad.
(All images © 2012 Meinrad Schade)