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Gaza's Version of the World Cup Soccer TourneyTim King Salem-News.com
A UN-sponsored tourney aims to help Palestinians end siege.
(GAZA CITY / SALEM) - A soccer tournament in Gaza is raising spirits, as players compete under sparkling sunny skies in a special two week event. Don't be misled though, this is Gaza, a bombed and ravaged city surrounded by walls and an ocean heavily patrolled by the Israeli navy.
The crowd was cheering vigorously and chanting “PLO, Israel No,” Haaretz reports. Several dozen spectators celebrated when Ireland scored its first goal against England.
But as they say, the event is, "Not at Wembley in London, or the new Aviva Stadium in Dublin, which opens later this year, but at the Palestine Sports Stadium in Gaza City, and in a match played in the symbolic World Cup tournament being held in the impoverished territory."
The tournament got underway Sunday; the first match between Italy and Palestine.
The Italians won with a score of 1-0.
Organizers say they hope over the special two-week event, to highlight the situation in the Gaza Strip, where an intense Israeli blockade has maintained a sealed chokehold for three years.
The event also marks the 15 months since the end of Israel’s three-week military offensive against militants in Gaza, known as "Operation Cast Lead" which has led to serious allegations of war crimes on several points.
Ibrahim Abu Salim, deputy director of the Palestinian Football Union, talked with Haaretz about the determination of people here, "From this tournament, we wanted to tell the world that Gazans are playing their favorite game despite the siege and suffering."
Tamer Qarmoot, a representative of the UN Development Program (UNDP) in Gaza, said, "The championship has two goals: to send a message of internal peace between the local and the foreign players, and to the world, to help the Palestinians end the Israeli siege." The UNDP is a sponsor of the event.
16 different Gaza-based Palestinian soccer clubs are participating in the tournament, and each of the 16 is representing a country. There is a great deal of symbolism taking place; it means a lot to these people so accustomed to violence and oppression.
The teams each have two foreign players, drawn from aid workers and activists in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, every player wears the kit of the country he represents, bearing the name of one of the players in the international squad.
England, for example, was represented by the Rafah Sports Club from the southern Gaza Strip, while the al-Sadaqa (Friendship) Sports Club from Jabalya refugee camp in the north of the enclave represented Ireland, which won 2-1.
Teams also represented Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Palestine. They are also in the running to win the cup, which is fashioned out of iron taken from the debris of houses destroyed during the Israeli offensive.
Special thanks: haaretz.com/print-edition/sports/soccer-gaza-world-cup-1.288273
To learn more: gfvart.ps
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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