GAZA, May 11 (Xinhua) — A football team of male amputees was recently formed in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the first of its kind in the Israeli-blockaded coastal enclave.
The 12-player team, named “The Heroes,” is seen as a glimmer of hope for many young people with amputations caused by frequent violence with Israel and other accidents.
All the team members were injured during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, which claimed the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians and injured more than 10,000 others.
At a modest playground owned by the municipality of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, amputee players, moving on their metal crutches, followed the instructions of their coach on how to dribble and pass the ball.
The players, who were footballers or football fans, once saw no hope for them to touch the green pitch again.
But the efforts of the Palestinian member of the National Paralympics Committee, Fuad Abu Ghalioun, who cooperated with Deir al-Balah Association for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, brought this team to light.
“We recently established the Palestine Football Association in Gaza to be the incubator for the team and the rest of the teams being sought for young amputees,” Abu Ghalioun told Xinhua.
The man is working to establish more teams to have a national league for amputee footballers, which will help him form a national team to join international contests.
He pointed out that amputee football is a disabled sport played with seven players on each team, adding that outfield players have lower extremity amputations, and goalkeepers have an upper extremity amputation.
“Outfield players use forearm crutches, and play without their prosthesis,” he explained.
Players may not use crutches to advance, control or block the ball, he said, adding that such an action will be penalized in the same way as a handball infringement.
“Games consist of two 25-minute halves with a one-minute rest period in between,” he said.
Abu Ghalioun, who dreams to spread the game among young Palestinian amputees, said the team lacks capabilities and finance amid the deteriorating economic conditions in Gaza which has been placed under a tight Israeli blockade since mid-2007.
The team founder hopes that local officials and civil society organizations will support the team materially and morally so that they can participate in international competitions.
According to official statistics, the Gaza Strip has over 25,000 injured people in the last 10 years, hundreds of whom suffer from amputations.
Using his steel crutches, 26-year-old footballer Nour Shamia, who lost his leg during the Israeli offensive in 2014, moves around the field, showing his football skills.
“Joining the team made me feel that nothing is impossible,” Shamia said. “Being a member of the squad breathed life into me again.”
The young man said he aspires to develop his skills in order to participate in international competitions “so that the world would know that Gaza loves life and the people of Gaza have ambitions.”
On the corner of the bumpy field, 26-year-old amputee soccer player Islam Nasr was busy warming up for the training session.
Nasr, a father of three kids, said joining the football team took him of a state of depression he had suffered since his injury four years ago.
“My family was also affected by my conditions … they feel happier now,” he added.