LONDON: The Yemen sporting fraternity has been shocked by the death of former footballer Nasser Al-Raimy who was killed, along with his 10 year-old son, in a rocket attack in Taiz on Saturday morning.
The 53 year-old had spent a fruitful career with Al-Taleea, starting out at the club in 1988 and captaining the team from around 1995 until his career ended early in the 21st century.
The former midfielder was still involved in the game and was holding an early morning training session at the stadium of Al-Ahly in Taiz when the attack took place, which as well as killing his son Imran, injured two other children also participating.
“Nasser Al-Raimi will be remembered well by all football fans in Yemen but we will wait for more information before we make more comments,” an official from the Yemen Football Association told Arab News.
According to Saba News Agency, a government official from Taiz declared that the missile had been fired by Houthi rebels.
“The shell fell on the Al-Ahly club stadium where Al-Raimi was training with his son and other children,” said an official, adding “The Houthi militia targeted a number of residential neighborhoods in the center of Taiz with mortar fire.”
Football fans took to Facebook and Twitter to express their reaction to the sad news, another blow to the sport in the country.
While the national team, playing home games in Qatar, managed to qualify for a first ever Asian Cup in 2019, finishing above Tajikistan and Nepal, the conflict in Yemen, that started in 2014, has brought chaos to all walks of life and football is no exception.
The league stopped in 2014 and has yet to restart with other footballing activities also at a standstill. That meant that there was little to no work for players, past and present, leading many to seek alternative employment. Al-Raimi however had continued to coach and train youngsters.
Minister of Youth and Sports Naife Al-Bakry condemned the attack. “We (offer our) condolences to the sports family in the martyrdom of Nasser Al-Raimi, former player of Al-Talaia Club, whose soul was lost as a result of one of these missiles,” he said on social media.
Geneva-based Sam Organization for Rights and Freedoms condemned the bombing. “The continued targeting of civilians in the city of Taiz on a daily basis is a systematic and deliberate act that requires more vigorous and clear action to hold the perpetrators accountable,” said a spokesperson.
Moammar Al-Eryani, Yemen Minister of Information, took to social media to decry the killings.
“We strongly condemn the terrorist crime by Houthi militia by bombing the Al-Ahly Club Academy Stadium in Taiz, that killed Cap. Nasser Al-Raimi, player of Al-Taleea Club & son, Imran, injured children Karam Shawqi & Ramzi Shawqi while exercising,” Al-Eryani wrote on his Twitter account.
According to reports, the Houthis have yet to make any comment on the attack on Yemen’s third biggest city.