10 February 2011The United Nations special envoy on sport today concluded a five-day mission to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by watching a football match between two women’s teams in the West Bank, an event he said filled him with optimism for the cause of gender equality in the region. Wilfried Lemke, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, watched the inaugural match of the Palestinian Women’s Football League at the Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram, West Bank, where the two teams, Sareiat YMCA Ramallah and Deyara Bethlehem, slugged it out in the presence of the UN envoy, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other officials.“I very strongly support this important development of the launch of the Palestinian Women’s Football League. Today was not only a football match but a remarkable breakthrough in the advancement of gender equality in the region,” said Mr. Lemke in a press release.“For young children in the area, especially girls who have seen so much hardship in their lives, to see these young women and role models realizing their dream and playing football will be a source of inspiration and hope,” he added.During the mission, Mr. Lemke also met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat, with whom the Special Adviser discussed how sport can contribute to the peaceful development of the region.Mr. Lemke’s trip followed last month’s historic meeting at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, between representatives of both the Israeli and Palestinian Olympic Committees.“Last month in Lausanne, we saw the power that sport can have in bringing people to the table, to facilitate dialogue and to begin the process of cooperation and understanding. It is important to keep this momentum and good spirit going to achieve concrete mutual understanding for the benefit of the athletes in the region,” said Mr. Lemke.“The region is one of my top priorities within my mandate as Special Adviser and missions such as this are crucial in order to assess the needs and possibilities in harnessing the power of sport to bring positive change across the region,” he added.

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