Palestinian Basketball Player Joins Women’s Israeli Premier League in Historic First
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Mirna Al Saih has made history by becoming the first female Palestinian basketball player to join Israel’s Premier League, the Israeli outlet Ynet reported.
The 22-year-old from Bethlehem, who was named MVP of the Palestinian league two years ago, made her debut in the Israeli Premier League on Sunday as part of the team ASA Jerusalem in its game against the Elitzur Ramla basketball team, which ended with a win for the Ramla-based team.
“The bar is much higher in Israel, I really wanted to play here,” said the accounting student, according to Ynet. “It’s very different in every aspect. In Israel, the coaches teach you so many things, how to play offense and how to play defense. In the Palestinian league, there is nothing like that.”
Ohad Gal, coach of ASA Jerusalem, said Al Saih is “very committed and very willing” to learn and improve her skills.
“Physically it might be a little difficult for her, but technically she is great,” he explained. “She is a guard, technical, with good control of the ball and excellent shooting. She comes with a very positive attitude. It is impossible not to like her. She makes an effort to come to every practice, certainly when she has to make the journey from the Bethlehem area.”
Al Saih, who began playing basketball at the age of six, came to Jerusalem last season and joined a local team in the national league before being given the opportunity to play in the Premier League. She holds an Israeli identity card and is not considered a foreign player, according to Ynet.
Gal said a Palestinian friend of his who coaches in the Palestinian league told him about Al Saih and mentioned “that it was worth giving her a chance.”
“From that moment, she trained with us,” he added. “It took us a while to decide together whether she would play this season or not, after all, so as not to put her in a situation she doesn’t want. She wants to grow into this and next year maybe study a master’s degree at the Hebrew University.”
Al Saih told Ynet that when she was younger her role model was the late NBA star Kobe Bryant and her “big dream” is to play basketball internationally.