Giving up is not an option for people with disabilities in Gaza, where a number of people with amputated limbs have formed a football team. They go through exhausting exercise, mostly to adapt to the change in their lives, as, in the majority of cases, their disability is the result of Israeli attacks.
Foad Ghalion, the team coach, is the first to train people with movement disabilities in Gaza. He said it is important for such people to receive athletic training, as it reaffirms their existence in life, which also brings a positive psychological impact. He said the idea was inspired by the Paralympics, and in particular while he was watching a football match between the UK and Turkey. The match inspired people with disabilities in Gaza and made them think "we can play as well".
The first football stadium and club for people with disabilities was established in Deer Balah in Gaza. Following that, a basketball team of 15 people with disabilities was created and their arena was set up in the city of Rafah, south of Gaza.
The first football match for people with disabilities in Gaza was played in celebration of Palestinian Earth Day on March 30th this year, alongside the announcement of the results of the qualifiers of the World Cup 2018, to establish a spirit of excitement in the players.
Mohammed Al Tajj kicks the ball to his team-mate, Mohammed Jeofil, who passes it to Mahmoud Alnaoug, whose kick is too good for the keeper, Walid Al Ghafri, as the ball finds the back of the net. Sounds of walking sticks and wheelchairs were present throughout the game.
Mahamoud Al Naouq is one of the administrators in the team and one of the best players. His disability was caused by an Israeli airstrike on a target near his house in the summer of 2014, causing the amputation of both his legs.
Al Naouq said to 7Dnews, “We hope to compete in the international Olympics for people with disabilities, to prove to the world that we in Gaza are able to live and adapt to reality and educate the world about the Israeli occupation attacks.”
Disabled football players around the world have supported the establishment of the Gaza team financially and morally, said Ghalion.
The players hope to establish another football team for people with disabilities on the West Bank, and then together they can form “The National Palestinian Football Team for People with Disabilities” which can represent Palestine at regional and international competitions.
Abdulrahman Nofil is a 14-year-old who lost his leg earlier this year in a protest at Gaza strip. He is one of the youngest players in the team. He said, “I grew up adoring football, I hoped to play with the Palestinian national team, but my dream faded away after I lost my left leg. I gained hope after joining the first football team for people with disabilities.”