At PENALTY, we hold the belief that football is not just a game, but a universal language that brings people together. We firmly believe that everyone, regardless of their background or ability, has the right to play football and enjoy the beautiful game.
In this mini-series we are sharing stories from Goal Click, a global football storytelling organisation that finds people from around the world to tell stories about their own football lives and communities. In sharing these stories, we aim to highlight the importance of inclusivity in football and showcase how the sport can unite and inspire individuals from all walks of life.
Yumon Masri is a football coach from Tulkarm in Palestine and a former player for the Palestinian women's national team. She is a coach with Palestine: Sports for Life (PS4L), coaching football to 60 boys and girls.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your football life?
My name is Yumon Masri and I come from Tulkarm in the West Bank, Palestine. Since my childhood I have been playing football in the streets of my neighborhood and on many teams, including Thaqafi Tulkarm, Askar, and Capital Youth Club in Jerusalem. This led me to study PE at Palestine Technical University – Kadoorie, majoring in football as the first woman to do so at this university.
I then joined Palestine: Sports for Life (PS4L), where I have been a football coach for eight years. The organization focuses on Sports for Development. Being part of PS4L, I was able to take part in several events using football as a social change, targeting hundreds of young girls and developing their life skills.
Through sports, I have overcome barriers in my culture as a female football player. There have been societal obstacles - the Palestinian community, specifically in Tulkarm, does not accept the idea of a girl playing football. They consider that playing football is only a male sport. There is also a challenging security situation in my city. We are under occupation and parents do not feel safe when their children go out to play football or any other game and prefer to keep them at home or school. Adding to this is the lack of safe spaces and stadiums where we can play football.
I also was able to represent the Palestinian women's national team on several occasions between 2008 and 2014, including the first 11-a-side Palestine women's national team and at the 2014 West Asian Championship. I was only 14 when I played my first match - it was against the Jordan Women's National Team. It was an indescribable feeling every time I represented Palestine. I felt joy and pride and cried sometimes.
I am continuing my passion by currently coaching football to 60 children (aged 10 to 16, both boys and girls) from my community with PS4L. PS4L was my gateway towards giving opportunities to children to play football because they gave me full support to do this. They developed my skills in the field of sports for development and football.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning?
I showed my PS4L football team in Tulkarm city in Palestine. I tried to show the suffering experienced by children, the joy of playing, sportsmanship, tolerance, gender equality, and the right to play.
All the stories of the children are similar. Most of them experience the same difficulties in our society. The challenges and difficulties they are experiencing are both from society's perception of girls playing football and from parental pressure, as most parents do not want their daughters to play football. They also have financial difficulties and lack of spaces to play the game securely. As a team we train on asphalt ground and it is not very safe to play, but there are no other options!
What are the opportunities for women’s footballers in Palestine? What is the future for women's football?
There are few opportunities for women’s footballers. Society and people do not accept the idea of girls playing football and there are not enough playgrounds for children to practice and play in.
There are some soccer training academies, but they are private and not free of charge. Most girls in my community cannot afford to pay for them because of their financial conditions. This is one of the reasons why I run the program in my city where anyone can come to play free of charge.
I do not know what the fate is for girls’ football in Palestine, but I hope it becomes better so that every city and village has a girls’ soccer team. I hope that our national team becomes one of the best teams in the world and I hope that we will one day participate in the Women’s World Cup.
What does football mean to you? What are your ambitions?
Football means life to me. It has been my passion and hobby since childhood. I cannot imagine my life without it. Football is also the opportunity I give to children in my community.
I aspire to make my name influential in the world of women's football, and to have a great influence on changing the societal perception towards women's football in my country. I aspire to be an opportunity-maker for children in Palestine.
I will work hard to be a name that is immortalised and mentioned in history as an influencer for the current generation because I believe that football can change people and change the whole world. That is why I do what I do with the current program, where I use football as a tool to teach life skills, help children, and give them a chance to play football. I believe that what I do is important and I will continue it.
See more stories from Goal Click.