We are a group of women football players from the Easton Cowgirls and Republica Internationale who believe in the power of football for positive social change. In October 2014, 17 of us embarked on a trip of a lifetime to the occupied territories of Palestine. The tour aimed to build solidarity with the women footballers of Palestine and for the UK teams to learn about life under occupation.
The Easton Cowgirls are a women’s football club based in Easton, Bristol. Formed in 2002, the team is part of the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls – and run entirely by volunteers. Beginning with the formation of a football team in 1992, The Cowboys and Cowgirls now include several men’s and one women’s football team, three cricket teams, two netball teams and a basketball team.
We are a club who recognise the fundamental equality of all people, irrespective of age, class, culture, disability, gender, race, religion, or sexuality. We seek to enjoy sport as part of strengthening local and international solidarity, performing to the best of our potential, and enjoying being part of a team. The Cowboys and Cowgirls have become not only a large sporting organisation, but also a social club who play and party with similar clubs all over the world. The club have led trips to play football and basketball in solidarity with the Zapatistas in Mexico, play cricket with ex-gang members in LA, and teamed up with another club, Republica Internationale, to play football against Los Autonomous in Brasil.
Republica are a club in Leeds with a similar ethos to the Cowboys and Cowgirls. They play Sunday League football with men’s and women’s 11-a-side teams, 5-a-side leagues during the week, and plenty of mixed football events during the summer. The club has players from age 16 to nearly 60.
The Cowboys and Cowgirls along with Republica are part of a network of anti-racist and anti-fascist football teams from across Europe and the world. We believe that football transcends borders between people, cultures, languages, religions, and countries. The links made, the joy of a shared game, and the exhilaration it brings, creates bonds which offer strength and friendship in difficult times.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine and the affect on Palestinian lives is one of the most atrocious violation of human rights of our times. The people of the Cowboys and Cowgirls and Republica clubs do not accept this crime against humanity. To demonstrate this we aspired to show our solidarity
with the Palestinian people by visiting and playing football. Through football, we could show women who share a love for the beautiful game that we care.
Inspired by the men’s teams touring the West Bank in years past, we decided to embark on a unique trip to play some relatively recently formed teams in the West Bank. This women’s football solidarity tour was organised by Hamed Qawasmeh who runs the organisation HIRN [LINK] and involved playing the Palestinian National Team (under 19s), Hebron University, and Diyar Bethlehem. The chance to play football was amazing: but not as important as the solidarity and friendship that it helped create.
The joint team’s slogan for our tour was “Freedom Through Football”, a message that we wrote on Israel’s separation wall along with the words of promise “we will share your story”. Changed by the people we met and being witnesses to the daily realities of life under occupation, we vowed to share their story on our return.