Gaza amputees tackle new challenge on the football pitch

By AFP
Published: July 12, 2018
SHARES
Email
Gaza's only amputee football team during a match. PHOTO: AFP.

Gaza's only amputee football team during a match. PHOTO: AFP.

Gazan amputees at a football match. PHOTO: AFP. A goalie at a Gazan amputee football match. PHOTO: AFP. Gaza's only amputee football team during a match. PHOTO: AFP.

DEIR EL BALAH: In fluorescent orange jerseys, footballers manoeuvred across the artificial turf of a pitch in the Gaza Strip–leaning on their metal crutches for support.

“Today I can continue to play football,” said Islam Amum, 27.

He used to be a goalkeeper, until he lost a leg in an Israeli air strike during the 2014 Gaza war.

Amum is one of 15 members of the only amputee football squad in the Gaza Strip. Aged from 16 to 40, they train every Monday afternoon in Deir el-Balah, in the centre of the coastal enclave.

Israeli forces kill three Gaza border protesters, wound 600: medics

They even have their own team song circulating on social media, captain Mohammed Juifel said proudly.

“Our anthem explains that the handicapped are part of society, including in football,” says Juifel, 21, whose right leg was amputated after a car crash when he was 13.

Abd al Majid Abu Milak, 25, lost his hand in an Israeli shell blast.

“The training is difficult but fun,” he said. “I feel like a goalie who can compete.”

A goalie at a Gazan amputee football match. PHOTO: AFP.

A goalie at a Gazan amputee football match. PHOTO: AFP.

Every day the players exercise in a room reserved for them at the Deir el Balah association for the handicapped.

The team owes its inception to Fuad Abu Ghaliun, a 62-year-old member of the Palestinian parliament.

“I got the idea of forming this team by watching a football match between Turkish and British amputees at the end of last year,” he said.

“Then I thought I could make a dream come true for hundreds of amputees in Gaza.”

He labelled the squad “the team of heroes” and said he hoped to form a local disabled league and one day join football’s world governing body FIFA.

Most of the side’s players were wounded by Israeli fire.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, since 2008.

The Palestinian enclave and its two million residents have been under an Israeli blockade for more than 10 years.

 

Israeli forces kill two Palestinians near border as Gaza buries dead

During the most recent confrontation in 2014, more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians. Seventy-four people were killed on the Israeli side, mainly soldiers.

The football squad’s organisers now hope amputees wounded by Israeli fire in recent violence on the Gaza border can also join up.
Clashes broke out along the frontier on March 30 following mass demonstrations calling for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes now inside Israel.

Ongoing violence has since seen at least 139 Palestinians killed and more than 4,000 wounded by Israeli fire.

Gazan amputees at a football match. PHOTO: AFP.

Gazan amputees at a football match. PHOTO: AFP.

The majority were involved in protests and clashes, but others were seeking to breach or damage the border fence.

No Israelis have been killed.

The health ministry in Gaza says hundreds of the wounded have undergone amputations.

To train the “team of heroes”, volunteer coach Khaled al Mahbuh, 32, has sought advice from doctors and studied video clips online.
Organisers have so far staged two five-a-side matches with teams drawn from the squad, attracting about 3,000 spectators, according to Mahbuh.

The games, Mahbuh said, “give the public pleasure, happiness.”

Ibrahim Khattab, 13, lost his left foot during the 2014 war.

He takes part in training but has not yet played in a match, although he has great ambitions.

“I dream of becoming a famous player and lifting up the cup after the victory of Palestine,” he said.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (1)

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Jul 13, 2018 - 11:22AM

    Thats the spirit. go for it … boys … Recommend

Leave Your Reply Below

Your comments may appear in The Express Tribune paper. For this reason we encourage you to provide your city. The Express Tribune does not bear any responsibility for user comments.

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments FAQ.

More in World