Opinion: Sports build a lot of useful life skills and instill values in those that play them. Yet why is the focus so much more on boys playing sports than girls?

I grew up in a place where only men play sports. A manliness test focused on one question; did they invite you to play soccer in the afternoon? And if yes, which position? This test was and still is a clear indication of your status in the neighborhood. They always chose me to be the goalie.

As far as I can remember, I have viewed soccer as physical sport with no room for the week or the soft. In other words, there basically is no room for girls. While we were busy developing our manliness through soccer, society around us carefully directed the girls to dancing and acting.

On a winter day at school, we were one soccer player short of making two full teams. One of the girls heard us complaining about what to do and ran to the field with a timid smile and offered to play. Everyone was silent and staring at each other, unsure what to do. We all wondered what the upper class boys would think when they hear that we played with a girl? At the age when being accepted by others is the most important thing, no one agreed to pay the price of welcoming the girl onto the field.

Rami, the most courageous person among my group of friends, said, “But you don’t have proper shoes.” Then he immediately kicked the ball in the air, signaling that it is better to play one player down than to play with a full team including girl. It was clear to me. We are not allowing women onto the field. On top of this, the popular sports channels broadcasted men’s sports on prime time and women’s sports in the late hours of the night, if at all.

Soccer teaches us about team work and mutual respect and grants us confidence and aspirations for excellence. But why is it more important to inculcate these values into men than women?

Womens volleyball (Photo: Mamanet Israel)
Womens volleyball (Photo: Mamanet Israel)


With women, I understood soccer’s importance – that it is a team sport where the individual’s power or physical fitness plays a minor role, and the field isn’t just a place to take out aggression and anger, or where scoring a goal is the most important thing. Without the team working together, no one succeeds. When one person scores a goal, that person’s pride is also my pride.

Furthermore, the world of soccer teaches us what true team work is, teaches us mutual respect and sportsmanship, builds self confidence encourages us to strive for excellence. Why is it that we place more importance on teaching men these values than women?

A country like Israel – in stark contrast to American society – doesn’t support women’s soccer. Who’s responsibility is it to focus on integrating girls into sports even from kindergarten and elementary school? Why wasn’t there some responsible adult who could have told Rami that the girl who wanted to play with us could have been just as good of a player as him, and maybe even better?

I’m doing a group project which accompanies girls through the “Twin School of Peace and Sports” of the Peres Peace Center. The project works to empower women on the soccer field and to turn the values they learn on the field to help create a basis and a common ground between Jews and Palestinians. The girls come from 12 different communities from all over Israel and the West Bank.

Approximately 240 girls participate in the project. While there is a large language and cultural barrier, they all have one thing in common – they all play soccer during their recesses and breaks.

I call on all of you, parents, teachers – don’t wait for an order from the Ministry of Education and Sport or from your regional council to organize something. We have the ability to set a personal example and show that women are not worth less on the soccer field, nor at all.

And to the girls out there – don’t be afraid to leave your ballet shoes in the closet and put on some soccer cleats. I’m sure it will be a lot of fun.

Tomorrow is the ending ceremony for the 240 Israeli and Palestinian girls in the city of Modi’in.

As reported by Ynetnews