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.
Renad Reyad is a football coach from Kafr Abboush in Palestine and a former player for the Palestinian women's national team. She works as a physical education teacher and is a coach with Palestine: Sports for Life (PS4L).
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your current football life?
I am Renad Reyad from the village of Kafr Abboush, which is a village within the Tulkarm Governorate of the State of Palestine. I hold a diploma and a bachelor’s degree in physical education, and am a sports and life skills trainer at the non-profit organization Palestine: Sports for Life (PS4L). I also support grassroots sports festivals with the Palestinian Football Association in cooperation with the Norwegian Football Association.
Because of my love for football, I was in the Palestinian national women’s team at several levels as a player and was an assistant goalkeeping coach for the national team. I have played football for many clubs. There were many good experiences and opportunities I have had as a women’s footballer. However, I still feel as though I did not have the best opportunity in reaching the dreams I wanted within the realm of football.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning?
You can see my family and the youths that I coach. They are people who like to play football and who play to express their love for the sport. They are playing in the village, on the streets, around olive trees, on empty land, and in a simple playground. We have a lack of fields for children. The empty land was supposed to be a field for kids to play on.
There are relatives, friends, colleagues, and children of one country. There are those who play in local clubs and those who play in the school-level leagues, whether as a team or individually joining games. And, there are those who received recognizable rewards and medals for their football accomplishments.
These children are together for one goal and that is to play. They should be able to freely play and enjoy sports in a safe space. I wanted to convey that life is sweet and that sticking to your dreams and talent will lead to great positive outcomes.
The deeper meaning is that when people see a person from their own village be ambitious, be a role model, and are in love with the game of football, they wish and dream to raise their child with a similar drive. Throughout my sports career, because of the love I emitted for the game of football, many parents used me as an example for motivating their children in football.
When the children are playing, you can feel their love and see their talent. Where we play is sometimes not important when it comes to developing our skills and talents. The most important thing is love, cooperation, being adventurous, and enjoying what you are doing.
What are the opportunities for women’s footballers in Palestine?
Opportunities for womens’ footballers in Palestine come mostly after retirement. Post-retirement, they can create training programs as a retired footballer, give lectures on the importance of having the game of football in Palestine, or be an analyst for football tournaments.
What does football mean to you?
Football means a lot to me. It is like food for my soul and is a long-term passion. Despite my retirement from playing football professionally, I am still playing constantly with my brother's children and school children, with both male and female students.
Why is football so important for Palestine and its people?
Football is important for Palestine in general because it is the most popular sport among Palestinians. If the world is able to see Palestinians love the game of football, then they would want to get to know Palestine better. When Palestinian footballers reach more international platforms, it will open the door for gaining experience and professionalism in a foreign country and elevate the level of play in our country.
How did COVID-19 affect football in your community?
For a long time COVID-19 negatively affected football in my community because of the prevention of group gatherings, thus halting training sessions. Work in the sports field was stopped and so trainers and coaches resorted to online streams to give training. Although there was online training, it was not the same as face-to-face training, due to not being able to be on a field or having the equipment for the game. On the other hand, the pandemic had an unknown positive side by teaching us to be patient, strong-willed, and in cooperating to make the impossible possible.
What impact has PS4L had on your life?
PS4L has had a great impact on my personality, ambitions, abilities, talent level, and relationships. PS4L opened the way for me to prove myself in my career and in being a role model to the people in my village, colleagues at university, and to all those who know me.
PS4L gave me the opportunity to work in a field that was completely new to me - sports for development - by using life skills during sport sessions. Even after working with other institutions, it was and still is the best institution I have worked with in Palestine. I will always continue to cooperate with this organization out of love for their work on the football grounds of Palestine.
What is the future for women’s football in Palestine? What are your ambitions?
I am certain that with expert staff, women’s football will rise to a better place than it was before.
My ambition is to work in the field of sports, particularly in football. I wish to be an ambassador for sports and youth, to help young people of both sexes to achieve their dreams, and to be a positive influence to everyone I come across. I also wish to travel and pass on my experience to others.
Do you have a message for the next generation?
My message to the future generation is to be someone who is responsible and who loves their country, and to also be ambitious and strong-willed. There is nothing that is impossible, always put your trust in God and in yourself.
See more stories from Goal Click.