Palestinian female basketball star joins Israeli Premier League
The MVP of the Palestinian team hopes to play internationally
Mirna Sayeh, age 22, wasn’t trying to make history. She just wanted to play basketball.
Sayeh, a Bethlehem native, who also has an Israeli identity card, started playing the sport at six years old.
She was immediately recognized as a talented player, and joined the Palestinian league for several years, eventually being named MVP.
Sayeh began playing basketball in the National League in Jerusalem last season, after a Palestinian coach recommended her to Jerusalem coach Ohad Gal. Soon after, she was given the opportunity to play for the Premier League.
“It took us time to decide together if she would play this season because we didn’t want to put her in a situation that she didn’t want to be in,” coach Gal said.
Despite playing for many years in the Palestinian league, Sayeh, who is 1.68 meters (5.5 ft.), said that playing in Israel is much different.
“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,” she said.
“The bar is much higher in Israel, I really wanted to play here,” she said. “There aren’t many teams in Palestine. Three years ago, for example, there were only three clubs there,” she said. “It’s very different in every aspect.”
Sayeh is studying to become a bookkeeper, but dreams of playing basketball internationally. She said that NBA star Kobe Bryant was her role model when she was younger, and he inspired her to “dream big.”