Playing Soccer in Gaza

Discussion in 'Israel and Palestine' started by P F Tinmore, Aug 4, 2010.

  1. P F Tinmore
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    P F Tinmore Platinum Member

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    You're watching your kid play soccer. It's a chilly weekend morning and you may be upset at the lost sleep involved in getting up and getting him there. The grass is green and the net, goal posts, striping are new and unscarred from previous play; their maintenance secured through a school district budget that generally passes grudging voter approval every two years. You see the mix of parents, some of them groggy, some of them slightly too excited by the impending competition. And it's all incredibly normal.

    What if the infrastructure for everything in the above scenario simply didn't exist? What if there wasn't a dew-covered green field behind the local elementary school that was open to all for community activities, funded by tax payers and maintained by salaried groundskeepers? What would it take for that scene to play out in in a refugee community in the Southern border town of Rafah, Gaza?

    Every year, community members in the Yebna neighborhood of Rafah find out. Amid the ongoing brutal siege and blockade conducted by the Israeli occupation forces and the often violent struggle between internal political factions comes the third annual Ramadan Soccer Tournament, organised by the Rachel Corrie Sports Initiative in Rafah.

    It isn't easy. People in this community are still reeling from a savage December 2008 military assault. They are part of a captive population of 1.5 million people who face a grim and grinding daily fight to prevent social collapse and cultural extinction. The soccer pitch is not grass. It's on packed, dry, tan earth. The temperatures can be somewhat hotter than what some of the soccer parents you know might be comfortable with. And matches can potentially be called off on account of curfews or air attack as opposed to foul weather. Throwing a soccer tournament in the midst of these conditions becomes itself an act of resistance against forces both from the outside and inside that work to divide and crush. The demand for some amount of normalcy itself becomes revolutionary.

    “Our playground, called the 'Unity Youth' playground, is not the only one in the area," says Adnan Abu Sa’ud, co-founder of the Rachel Corrie Sports Initiative. "But what makes it distinct other than its location [near the Egyptian border where Israeli bulldozers had flattened neighborhoods of homes and effectively tried to maintain as a no-man's land] is that young people from different political colors come almost every day not to talk about politics but to practice sport with each other. Other playgrounds attract only those who are affiliated to a certain political line. As a matter of fact the daily activities as well as the annual tournament manifests a social and sportsmanship bond, so to speak, amongst the people of our community.”

    Playing Soccer in Gaza

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