Football is universal. It can even become an instrument of women's emancipation. This is one of the themes of the exhibition "Football and the Arab world. The revolution of the round ball ", which begins today at the Institute of the Arab world, in Paris. By focusing on women's practice in Jordan and Palestine, the exhibition shows the fight of players for the recognition of their passion, which faces cultural and religious barriers.
In less than two months, the kickoff of the Women's World Cup will be given in France. No Arab team is qualified. Too recent in the Middle East, women's football is still making its way. In Jordan, it all began in 2000, when the Orthodox Club set up the first women's team in Amman, imitated by the Shabab Al-Ordon Club, in 2003. At that time, the girls played five against five and did not access to the lawn. Things change when, in the months that follow, the Jordanian state decides to develop female practice. "Prince Ali Ben Al Hussein has made money by building stadiums, recruiting coaches, and providing equipment to practice in good conditions," explains Aurélie Clémente-Ruiz, curator of the exhibition. Such a structuring of women's football by an Arab state is unprecedented. "
The country has about fifteen training centers
In 2003, the national team was born, followed by a championship in 2005. The same year, the federation launched a national program of training centers to encourage young girls to play. The country has a fortnight today, allowing nearly 500 women under 14 to practice for free. Despite these changes, Jordanian women often train in gyms in the most conservative areas, where the sight of a girl in shorts, ballooning, is not yet well accepted. The kingdom quickly reaped the fruits of its investment. Winner of the West Asian championship on three occasions (2005, 2007 and 2014), the country has organized the U17 World Cup (under 17) in 2016, then the Asian Cup in 2018.
In Palestine, football has followed a more difficult path. "Unlike Jordan, it is personal and local initiatives that are behind the development of the practice in other Arab countries," said Aurélie Clémente-Ruiz. Originally from Bethlehem, Honey Thaljieh founded the Palestinian women's team, of which she will be the first captain, in 2003. "A little girl like I was in Palestine at the end of the 1990s, had never heard of women playing football, it was considered a strictly male activity. There was no team, league, resources, or structure for women's football. Only prejudices and ostracism. Football is an emancipation tool for women, able to break stereotypes. "
More than 400 girls in the West Bank are licensed
After creating a team of five, she sets up that of the University of Bethlehem. "The prejudices remained, but it became easier to face external challenges as a group," said the one who is now ambassador of Fifa. Beyond the cultural obstacles, footballers must also bypass those imposed by the occupation of the Israeli army. Today, four teams play on big fields, and a dozen in the hall. More than 400 girls over the age of 14 in the West Bank are licensed by the Palestinian Football Federation.
In Jordan as in Palestine, wearing the hijab during competitions is not systematic. Since 2014, the wearing of the Islamic veil is indeed authorized by Fifa. Vice President of the case at that time, Prince Ali Ben Al Hussein then fought hard to get the ban lifted. "There is at the same time the influence of the Arab countries and at the same time an expansionist strategy of the Fifa, underlines the historian of sport, Paul Dietschy. Accepting the veil can be seen as a form of patronage, as many Arab nations sit on Fifa where one country equals one vote. "