Palestinians set up their first national amputee football team in Gaza | Israeli-Palestinian conflict news

Gaza City– The first ever Palestinian football team to be amputated was established in Gaza City on Friday to coincide with the International Day of the Disabled.

The national team of the Palestinian Amputee Football Association is supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This 20-person team is made up of young Palestinians who lost part of their bodies in previous wars or accidents with Israel.

Players use crutches and artificial legs to play football during training at a stadium in Gaza City.

The team’s goal is to participate in the Amputation World Cup scheduled to be held in Turkey next year.

1 14Amputee Ahmed Al Hodari was selected to join the team [File: Mohammed Salem/Al Jazeera].

My life has changed drastically

23-year-old Ahmed Alkhodari (Ahmed Alkhodari) in March 2019 Great return march three years ago.Hundreds of Palestinians were Be killedIn 1948, they tried to cross the fence and demand to return to towns and villages in Israel, where their ancestors were ethnically cleansed and tens of thousands were injured in Israeli shootings.

At least 156 injured people are facing amputation.

Al Hodari told Al Jazeera that he wanted to participate in games outside of the Palestinian enclave. There are nearly 2 million people here. It has been blocked by Israel for nearly 15 years. His selection into the national team adds “value” to my life.

He believes that the team will succeed in international championships around the world. The team hopes to represent Palestine in the 2022 World Cup scheduled to be held in the Turkish city of Istanbul in March.

1 43Football player Ibrahim Madi said the team helped him with the physical and mental pain he suffered after losing his leg [File: Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

Ibrahim Madi, 30, expressed his enthusiasm for being part of the team.

“Being here means a lot to me. It made up for all the physical and mental pain I suffered after losing my leg,” he told Al Jazeera.

Madi recalled “the darkest day of his life”-in 2018, a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers hit him in the leg during a border demonstration in Gaza.

“I endured unbearable pain in the hospital for 11 days,” he recalled. “Then the doctor decided to amputate my leg.”

The amputation seriously affected Madi’s life until he learned about the football team where the amputee was.

1 16Simon Baker is an ICRC consultant who traveled to Gaza for the first time in 2019 to work on amputees football [File: Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

“A positive story from Gaza”

Simon Baker, secretary general of the European Amputee Football Federation, has been working with amputees in Gaza for three years, helping them improve their skills and provide high-level guidance.

Baker himself is also an amputee. He traveled to Gaza for the first time in 2019 to participate in the amputees football project as an ICRC consultant. Since then, he has trained 15 coaches, 12 referees and 80 amputees in the Gaza Strip-20 of them were selected for the final lineup to be announced on Friday.

Baker told Al Jazeera: “The project has gone through several stages and the best 20 players have been selected to form the national team.”

“We hope that by the end of March, the national team will participate in the Asian Cup, which will qualify them for the 2022 World Cup in Istanbul,” he said.

Baker wants people to respect the team. “We don’t want people to sympathize with them and feel sorry for them because they live in Gaza. This is a happy and positive story from Gaza.”

He said that disabled people can become valuable members of society.

1 25According to the Ministry of Health, there are approximately 1,600 amputees in the Gaza Strip [File: Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

This team “made history”

Sohail Zagut, the spokesperson of the ICRC in Gaza, said that the team became the first Palestinian national football team to be amputated and “made history”.

Zaqout emphasized the role of her organization in supporting people with disabilities, especially in the Gaza Strip, which has witnessed a cycle of conflict and violence.

“We support sports for amputees as a window to achieve social and psychological integration,” she said.

Zagut said that the ICRC supports five other sports for amputees in Gaza, including basketball, track and field, cycling and table tennis.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, there are approximately 1,600 amputees in the Gaza Strip.

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