Tossing around tennis balls and swinging makeshift bats, the Palestinian women practicing on a soccer field are the vanguard of a sport new to the Gaza Strip — baseball.
Their coach, Mahmoud Tafesh, is introducing the game to the enclave and eventually hopes to form a national team to compete in Asian baseball championships.
Mr Tafesh, who played for the Palestine national soccer team for 16 years, trained as a baseball coach in Egypt. He has recruited 40 women and 20 men, many of them university students, to learn the sport in facilities he rents at his own expense.
“We have received no financial support from anyone. I buy the balls and I make the bats,” Mr Tafesh told Reuters. But Mr Tafesh has received approval from Gaza’s Ministry of Youth and Sport to establish the first Palestinian Federation for Baseball and Softball, and he hopes to hold try-outs later this year for a five-team league.
On the soccer field, women in traditional headscarves lobbed balls to batters whose enthusiasm made up for their lack of a proper stance or grip in taking their swings.
“They know the rules now and they need to practise the game more and more,” Mr Tafesh said.