On Sunday, the Israeli Women’s National Football Team drew 0-0 with Kazakhstan in their clash in the UEFA Women’s Nations League, the biennial international women’s European football competition. The draw means that Israel remains unbeaten after four games, leading Group C4 on 7 points with 2 wins and 1 draw, followed by Estonia (7 points with 2 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss), Kazakhstan (5 points with 1 win, 2 draws and 1 loss) and Armenia (3 losses).
Israel’s first game in the tournament was a 5-0 away victory over Estonia in Tartu on September 26, with Meytal Sharabi, Rachel Shtainshnaider, Noa Selimhodzic, Vital Kats and Sharon Beck scoring the goals. However, the games against Kazakhstan were postponed due to the Swords of Iron War, which began with Hamas’s heinous acts on October 7.
The Israeli team returned to the field for the first time since the outbreak of the war on Thursday with their first fixture against Kazakhstan, a 2-0 away victory, with Marian Awad and Eden Avital scoring for the Blue & White. It was clearly a significant and emotional occasion for the team, as evident by the viral clip going around the internet of the final words of the players before taking the pitch.
“This is what I expect from myself and from all of us,” Awad, the 27-year-old Arab-Israeli midfielder who currently plays for ABB FOMGET Genclik, began. “First, I want us to fight on the field like our army is now fighting there in the territories. I want us to play and enjoy ourselves like the young children who were taken hostage and who were killed played and enjoyed themselves in daycare. And at the end, I want us to dance and smile, all of us together, after we win, like everyone danced at the party. Together and only together!”
“We have a great privilege to be here, a great privilege to be here and represent something very strong, always, but today especially,” veteran Shani David, who wore the captain’s armband for the game, said. “There’s nothing more to add to what Mins [Awad] said. Simply play and be thankful for this privilege that we have to be here, because there are people who would want to swap with us.”
For Israel’s second group game against Kazakhstan, which was held in Telki, Hungary as Israeli national teams are unable to host games due to the war, the team posted an image of a jersey with the name of 19-year-old Naama Levy, who was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists from the Nachal Oz army base on October 7, with the date 7.10.23 under the name, hanging in between the jerseys of Avital and Shtainshnaider in the rooms before the game.
This is a similar to the image of 8-year-old Nave Shoham’s name on a jersey hanging between the jerseys of Eran Zahavi and Eli Dasa before Israel’s game against Kosovo on November 12. Shoham was released, together with his 38-year-old mother Adi and 3-year-old sister Yahel, on Saturday night at the end of the second day of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The team, along with the whole country and Jews and allies around the world, will be hoping that Levy will similarly also be released from her captivity soon.
The Israeli National Team will look to maintain their spot at the top of Group C4, which would mean automatic promotion to League B for the next edition of the tournament. They are scheduled to play Armenia away on Wednesday November 29, Armenia at home on Saturday December 2 and Estonia at home on Tuesday December 5.