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February 23, 2014 5:24 pm

After Being Selected to Host Euro U19 Championship, Israel Builds National Women’s Soccer Team

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

Israel's female footballers at practice. Photo: Screenshot.

Having been chosen to host the 2015 European Football Championship Women U19, Israel is working to put together its first national, female football team, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

The goal is to identify the most promising local athletes and get them ready in less than a year-and-a-half to take on some of the best young, female football players in the world.

The girls who have been recruited so far, come from every conceivable national and ethnic background, Channel 2 said. There’s an Arab from Nazareth, a religious Jewish girl, and even an American expat from New York named Summer Sofer who left behind her biology studies at the University of Massachusetts in favor of participating in Israel’s quest for football fame.

“Moving wasn’t easy, but you can’t say ‘no’ to an opportunity to play on the Israeli national team,” Sofer said.

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Coaching the team is Guy Azuri, former coach of the Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Be’er Sheva football clubs. Azuri was initially reluctant to accept the position since he, like many Israelis, believed that women’s football is not taken seriously in the land of milk and honey, Channel 2 said.

He eventually relented and today admits that he thoroughly enjoys himself.

Azuri is now putting the girls through a grueling training regimen, according to the report. Camped at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports, just south of Netanya, the footballers spend most of the day practicing. They also eat, sleep and live together on the site of the sports training facility.

With Israeli women’s football still in its formative years, the national under-19 team trains against all-male teams across the country. The girls play to win, Channel 2 said.

While the ultimate goal for the Israeli national team is to win the European Championship, careers with top tier American or European women’s football clubs are also definite possibilities for those who excel.

It is too soon to tell what the long term impact of a female Israeli national football team will be on Israeli society and culture. However, the fact that young, talented, ambitious Israeli women now have an opportunity to express themselves through team sports is a win-win: for the girls and for the country they represent, Channel 2 said.

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