Recapturing women’s football history: an interview with Oshrat Eni

When Oshrat Eni, 36, a player for ASA Tel-Aviv in Israel’s first division, football pundit, and the former captain of the Israeli national team, identified that there’s hardly any online information about women’s football in Israel, she decided to act and launched a full-on project: Writing History: Creating Wikipedia pages for Female Football Players. Yes, Wikipedia. Not Tiktok or all the other cool shenanigans.

We spoke to Oshrat and learned how it all unfolded.

“The whole idea came when the Israeli Football Association announced that the women’s league will not resume due to Covid19. They granted the title to FC Ramat Hasharon who was leading the table after all teams played two full rounds of games.” This was not the first time in the new millennia that a season did not come to an end. Back in the 2003/04 season, the league did not finish and was left undecided, no winners, no losers.

“I tried to remember at what stage of the season we were when it stopped.  I knew that the answer wouldn’t come from my memory alone. I asked friends and other players and even they couldn’t remember”. Oshrat embarked on a journey into the depths of the internet and found no answers. “I turned to an Israeli football historian who directed me to the Wikipedia page in English about that season”. A reminder, Israel’s official language is Hebrew.

“On that page, I found further information, mostly basic, about other seasons through the links in the footnotes. The only treasure was the fully detailed 2007/08 season page. I thought to myself, how crazy is it that this is the only documentation”. One might turn to the Israeli Football Association website to find out more although it turns out that the data there goes back only to 2006/07.

They don’t even have a Wikipedia page…

A podcast episode that Oshrat listened to over the summer was the eureka moment. “I recall that they talked about a team completely unknown to the public. One of the guests said the team doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. That’s quite an insult nowadays! Any public figure, athletes, scholars, you name it, that doesn’t have a Wikipedia page it’s like they don’t exist”.

Lack of data and historic documentation is one of women’s football’s downsides. Not surprising from a sport that continues to fight for professionalism and was widely banned and ignored for many years worldwide. “Whenever I get a chance to appear in the media I do what I can to shine light about women’s football. It’s difficult to influence mainstream media. Even more so going back and trying to document something with very little information about.”

From there, Oshrat launched a campaign that brings together current and former female football players, writers, and fans. Jointly they are collecting qualitative and quantitative data and increasing their digital history. “Upon launching, there were only 21 Wikipedia pages about players. Four of them were up to date. The goal is to create values for all Israeli female football players who qualify for Wikipedia’s value creation criteria.” The criteria is to have at least 50 league or 2 national team appearances. In roughly two months the project grew by 17 pages to a total of 38 and counting.

The project uncovered the historical decline in women’s football coverage. “Twenty-four years ago the main source of coverage was newspapers. We assumed that with the progression of the media landscape and the availability of different platforms coverage would increase, quite the opposite! As years went by there were fewer stories.”

Creating a community

The project drew interest from various media outlets and leading reporters are dedicating time to support it. The Israeli Football Association and it’s PR & Comms department are also very supportive according to Oshart.

Gaining the support of the players was key as well. Through the organisation “Footballers Make a Change”, an organisation set up by female football players (including Oshrat) in Israel, many players came on board.

One of the project’s writers wrote Wikipedia pages about the teams Maccabi Haifa and MILEN (an abbreviation for Israeli Women’s Football Club). These teams don’t exist anymore and some of the current national team players weren’t even aware of them. “Funnily, each one of us feels that she’s the pioneer for the sport. Young players feel like that, my generation feels like that whereas in reality women played organised football in Israel as far as the 1970’s”.

To ensure that the project gets maximum awareness it is distributed across multiple social media channels so it is more accessible to a diverse audience. Engaging with young fans is a key element for the growth of women’s football. “We found out that young fans aren’t that active on Facebook so we’re publishing different types of content across Instagram and Twitter too”. Oshrat says that there are plans for additional content types about the players who don’t meet Wikipedia’s criteria yet. Plans to cover teams and seasons are in the pipeline too.

Finally, Oshrat also has plans to ensure the sustainability and continuity of such a project. “It created a supportive and engaged women’s football community. It was so important for me to connect people equally as well as creating content. Once possible, we’d love to host gatherings and see each other at matches”. With a growing community behind women’s football in Israel, Oshrat hopes that eventually, the project will sustain itself, and women’s football coverage will become part of the daily media so players can focus on playing and write history on the pitch.

You can follow Oshrat on Twitter @osh15eni

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.