In Gaza, loss of a leg doesn’t deter ‘hero’ footballers

In Gaza, loss of a leg doesn’t deter ‘hero’ footballers
Palestinian players compete during a local football championship for amputees, organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in Gaza amid coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 19 March 2021

In Gaza, loss of a leg doesn’t deter ‘hero’ footballers

In Gaza, loss of a leg doesn’t deter ‘hero’ footballers
  • Footballer Mohammed Abu Bayad, who plays using crutches, played football before he was injured and his life changed but was determined to continue
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Palestinian Football Association co-organized a four-club tournament after few-month break due to coronavirus pandemic in Gaza

GAZA – Palestinian footballer Mohammed Abu Bayad, whose leg was amputated after being injured by Israeli fire, has become the first to score using crutches in a football match in Gaza.
Using his crutches Abu Bayad ran as fast as he could, kicked the ball and scored a goal becoming the first to score in a football match between Palestinians whose legs were amputated after they were hit by Israeli fire.
“I played football before I was injured and my life changed, but I was determined to continue,” said Abu Bayad, at a stadium west of Gaza City.
After a break of a few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament between four clubs culminated Thursday in the final, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Football Association.
Abu Bayad was shot by the Israeli army in 2014 during the last war between Israel and Gaza’s rulers, the armed Islamist movement Hamas.
According to the United Nations, some 8,000 other Palestinians were injured by Israeli army fire during the “great march of return” protests that started in March 2018.
For several months, thousands of Palestinians gathered along the barrier between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state, heavily guarded by the Israeli army.
They were demanding an end to the decade-long Israeli blockade on the enclave.
They also demanded the right of Palestinians to return to the lands they fled, or were driven from, when Israel was created in 1948.
Ahmed Abu Nar, who also scored a goal for his team, lost his left leg during those protests.
“It was very difficult when I was wounded,” he said. “Playing football helps me psychologically and physically, and makes me happy.”
His teammate Mohammad Abu Samra said his interest in the game grew after his injury.
“I wanted to challenge myself and prove to the Israeli enemy that we will not surrender,” Abu Samra said.
For ICRC spokesman Hesham Mhanna, the players are “heroes,” “victims of armed conflicts” who send a message that it is possible to overcome obstacles stemming from disability.