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Portrait of a young aspiring soccer referee in the West Bank

Hanine Abu Mariam is only 21 years old. Yet this young sportswoman, who studied sports at university, is determined to lead the sidelines of the artificial turf field in Al-Ram, a city located between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank. 

The first game that Hanine Abu Mariam refereed was during a men’s team competition. Initially frightened, her fear soon gave way to her determination to become one of the few Palestinian women referees in international soccer.

At first I was afraid of making a mistake, but the head referee and other male colleagues helped me” she says. 

It was her family, who despite many negative reactions towards her, pushed her to persevere and make her dream come true. “My family has always helped and encouraged me” added the young referee, wearing a scarf and long black sleeves under her jersey. Today, Hanine Abu Mariam referees about seven games a month at $30 each, the same rate as her male colleagues. For Ibrahim Ghroof, chairman of the refereeing department at the Palestinian Football Association, fairness is a given. After all, women are just as capable as men! “We trust them completely, they are capable of taking on big responsibilities. Look at Hanine Abu Mariam for example: she not only referees in the women’s championship, but also in the second and third divisions for men, as well as in the youth championships” he says. 

When the Palestinian Football Association first allowed women to referee matches four years ago, many conservatives took offence. And yet, the many aspiring referees have stuck to their guns and are following the tracks laid out by Hiba Saadia and Yasmine Nirokh, the first Palestinian women to referee international women’s matches

I dream of being a famous referee and I hope to reach an international level, but as an assistant referee” she shyly confides. 

An inspiring and exemplary career path for all women trying to make their mark in the still too masculine world of sport