Amputee football team a game changer for Gaza wounded

Sport gives amputees a sense of solidarity and camaraderie and allows them to have fun and socialise with others

Gaza: A football team made up of Palestinians who lost limbs to Israeli fire in Gaza is giving its players new purpose.

Players aged between 13 and 42 play eight-a-side intra-squad games.

Most have only one leg and play on crutches.

“I was sitting home most of the time, sad. Now I am happy, have friends and we play,” said Ebrahim Khattab, 13, who lost his left leg during the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants when an Israeli missile struck while he was playing football outside his home.

“He was always desperate, now after he joined the football team, I see he has hope,” his father, Khalid, said.

“He used to spend most of his time playing games on a tablet.”

Fouad Abu Ghalyoun, a member of the Palestinian paralympic committee, founded the team, having come up with the idea after a match last year between amputee squads from England and Turkey.

Within five months, some 16 players had signed up.

“It was hard to convince those with amputated limps to come forward. Nowadays they are calling us to ask about exercise times,” said Abu Ghalyoun.

“Football is the beloved game of youth, so first it is entertaining and second … (it) is a kind of psychological support,” he told Reuters.

The team’s coach, Khalid Al Mabhouh, said the squad was still lacking sturdier crutches to replace regular ones that tend to break when a player puts weight on them during a match.

Some of the 54 Palestinians who had limbs amputated after being wounded by Israeli fire during recent protests along the Gaza-Israel border have expressed interest in joining the team.

At least 130 peaceful Palestinian protesters have been shot dead by Israeli snipers during mass demonstrations since March 30, Gaza health officials said.

Protesters are demanding a right of return to what is now Israel for those who fled or were forced to flee their homes in the war around its creation in 1948, and for millions of their descendants.

Israel’s tactics in confronting the protests have drawn international condemnation.


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