Our first win

As the team heads out onto the soccer field they march in pairs screaming TYO, TYO, TYO. They call out numbers indicating what to do and stomp onto the field. This is not an average soccer team. In fact it is anything but average here in Nablus. Where the field is dominated by boys and girls do not play the beautiful game. The TYO Girls team is anything but average in their enthusiasm, variety of age and raw talent.

It is only our second game and about half the girls are new to the game and to the team. We begin cheering in the middle with a quiet huddle that becomes a loud shout, welcoming Salem and shouting our name. A small crowd forms of the girl’s little sisters and even brothers, the TYO staff and the curious neighborhood kids. “What these girls are doing?”

What they are doing is beyond playing a soccer game. They are revealing themselves as leaders, as young girls with confidence and strength and they are doing it in their neighborhood. Khallet al-Amood is one of the most conservative neighborhoods in the Palestine. They are trying something new and putting their hearts into it with enthusiasm. I cannot express to you the beauty of a huddle, looking into the girl’s eyes and seeing their excitement. Their little sisters are watching, wanting to play and asking me every five minutes if they can go in. Unfortunately they are too young; they need a team of their own. But they stick around and join in the crowd; they support their older sisters and cheer the loudest when we score.

They are expanding the small space for girls. They are kicking it open as they score goals and introduce the community to themselves as a soccer team. After our first game the shebabs (guys) that usually hang around and play on the field wanted to play against us, the girl’s team. I remember my first experience here venturing outside to play against them, how hard it was for them to accept me as a soccer player. Now, today they are accepting their sisters as players.

The game begins. We are playing Salem village. It is our second game and girls have more of a handle on rules, no handballs, goal kicks etc. They have a newfound confidence that I see as they walk to their positions. The game starts with Salem’s ball but we quickly change things with a goal from Susan. This first game focuses the girls and brings them further into the game. Our new goalie, Amina is naturally fearless and vocal. Two qualities many seasoned goalies do not have. Salem Village girls are smaller but quick and have more skill but our girls are determined. Salem scores again but we return with another quick goal, its tied at half time.

The game ends with a tie, the girls are more than happy it’s been a close game and they had fun. But it’s not over. We go into Penalty Kicks and Amina saves the day! With three goals the girls celebrate their first victory. A victory that is more than a win, it is just a start. It is girls striding onto the field in confidence and showing their community who they are.

-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator and the TYO girl's soccer coach

*All pictures were taken by Abi's Triple Exposure students.