aljazeera.com
News|Israel-Palestine conflict
Palestinians launch first national amputee football team in Gaza
The squad of 20 amputee footballers from Gaza hopes to play in the Amputee Football World Cup next year.
The team is supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross [File: Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera].
By Maram Humaid
3 Dec 2021
Gaza City – Palestine’s first-ever amputee football team was launched in Gaza City on Friday to coincide with International Day for People with Disabilities.
The Palestine Amputee Football Association national squad is supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The squad of 20 consists of young Palestinians who lost parts of their bodies, either in previous wars with Israel or in accidents.
Players used crutches and prosthetic legs to play football as they trained at a stadium in Gaza City.
The team aims to participate in the Amputee Football World Cup scheduled to be held in Turkey next year.
Amputee player, Ahmed Alkhodari, was selected for the team [File: Mohammed Salem/Al Jazeera].
My life has changed enormously
Ahmed Alkhodari, 23, lost his leg in March 2019 during the Great March of Return three years ago. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed, and tens of thousands were wounded in Israeli firing as they attempted to cross the fence demanding a return to towns and villages located inside Israel from where their ancestors were ethnically cleansed in 1948.
At least 156 of those who were wounded faced amputations.
Alkhodari told Al Jazeera he wants to participate in tournaments outside of the Palestinian enclave, home to nearly 2 million people, which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly 15 years, and that his inclusion in the national team has added “value to my life”.
He believes the team will succeed at international championships across the world. The team is looking to represent Palestine in the 2022 World Cup slated to be held in the Turkish city of Istanbul in March.
Footballer Ibrahim Madi says the team helped with the mental and physical pain he endured 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 compensated all mental and physical pain I suffered after I lost my leg,” he told Al Jazeera.
Madi recalled “the darkest days of his life” – the period after a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers hit his leg in 2018 during a border demonstration in Gaza.
“I spent 11 days in unbearable pain in hospital,” he recounted. “Doctors then decided to amputate my leg.”
The amputation severely affected Madi’s life until he learned about the amputees’ football team.
Simon Baker is a consultant with ICRC, and he first travelled to Gaza in 2019 to work on the amputee football project [File: Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]
‘Positive story coming out of Gaza’
Simon Baker, the General Secretary of the European Amputee Football Federation, has been working with amputee players in Gaza for three years, helping them boost their skills and providing high-level coaching.
Baker, an amputee himself, first travelled to Gaza in 2019 to work on the amputee football project as a consultant with the ICRC. In the Gaza Strip, he has since trained 15 coaches, 12 referees, and 80 amputee players – from which 20 were chosen for the final squad unveiled on Friday.
“The project went through several stages in choosing the best 20 players to launch the national team,” Baker told Al Jazeera.
“We hope by the end of March, the national team will go to compete in the Asian Cup and this will qualify them to participate in the 2022 World Cup in Istanbul,” he said.
Baker wants people to respect the team. “We don’t want people to pity them and feel sorry for them because of the fact they live in Gaza. This is a happy and positive story coming out of Gaza.”
People with disabilities can be valuable members of society, he said.
The Gaza Strip is home to some 1,600 amputees, according to the Ministry of Health [File: Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]
This team ‘makes into history’
Suhair Zaqout, the spokesperson of the ICRC in Gaza, said this team “makes history” by being the first national Palestinian amputee football team.
Zaqout highlighted her organisation’s role in supporting people with disabilities, especially in the Gaza Strip that has witnessed conflicts and cycles of violence.
“We support the amputees’ sports as a window to achieve social and psychological integration,” she said.
Zaqout said ICRC supports five other sports for amputees in Gaza, including basketball, athletics, cycling and table tennis.
The Gaza Strip is home to some 1,600 amputees, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
RELATED
Gaza’s un­drink­able wa­ter ‘slow­ly poi­son­ing’ Pales­tini­ans
Hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions have warned for years about the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing wa­ter sit­u­a­tion in the Gaza Strip.
12 Oct 2021
Pales­tin­ian fac­tions in Gaza call to end lat­est UN­R­WA-US deal
The US frame­work in­cludes mon­i­tor­ing Pales­tin­ian school cur­ric­u­la and so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties of UN­R­WA staff.
5 Oct 2021
From: Al Jazeera World
Gaza: 60-Minute Warn­ing
Video in­side Gaza tow­ers shows res­i­dents and work­ers count­ing down to an Is­raeli mis­sile at­tack while evac­u­at­ing.
46:27
29 Sep 2021
MORE FROM NEWS
Pfizer, Moderna boosters up to 90% effective against Omicron: CDC
UN probing alleged killings by CAR forces, Russia mercenaries
‘Catastrophe’: Peru oil spill clean-up to take weeks
Myanmar sentences lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party to death
MOST READ
US suspends flights by China carriers after Beijing COVID move
Saudi-led coalition denies Yemen air raid; UN, US call for calm
World War II aircraft that crashed in India found after 77 years
Thich Nhat Hanh, influential Buddhist monk, dies at 95
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2022 Al Jazeera Media Network
 
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless. You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen.To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.