Above is a picture of security guards praying among the rubble in the football stadium in Gaza City, Palestine. Football is a tremendous part of culture and life in Palestine. Hence, this stadium being destroyed was a strong signal to Palestinians that their dreams and potential could be shattered. The same stadium in which the men above are praying was also destroyed in 2006.

As footballisradical noted :

“On November 16, the Israeli Air Force bombed the 10,000-seat Palestine Stadium “into ruins.”* The stadium also headquartered the center for youth sports programs throughout the Gaza Strip. This is the second time Israel has flattened the facility. The first was in 2006 and the people of Gaza have spent the last six years rebuilding the fields, stands and offices to keep the national soccer team as well as club sports alive in the region.”

In the interim, UEFA has yet to back out of a decision to let Israel host the 2013 Under 21 tournament. A move that would certainly infer support for Israel instead of highlighting it’s various complicit behaviors, which are ripe with aggression and racism. Much against the so-called policies and practices of non-tolerance of racism as stated by UEFA. 

There is on-going pressure from various campaigns around the world objecting to UEFA’s decision. Demanding that Israel be removed as host country.

According several recent reports and commentary from Platini, he is “reflecting upon the decision”.

Whether or not, the tournament is allowed to continue -despite much opposition from human rights and activist groups- the stadium in Gaza City must be rebuilt as soon as possible. FIFA secretary-general, Jerome Valcke, has already pledged support to rebuild the stadium.

We see it our mandate to rebuild football infrastructure which has been destroyed, ” Valcke is reported to have said on “We will also rebuild the stadium in Gaza which has been destroyed”.

Gaza City stadium is home to the Men’s National Team but the training facilities for the Women’s team at Al Jazeera Sports Club, also completely destroyed. Sadly, the club will not be rebuilt. In addition, it served the members of the Palestinian Paralympics teams. Should the Gaza Stadium be reconstructed, it should be open to the Women’s Team as well.

Only weeks before the Israeli attacks on Gaza destroyed much of the sports infrastructure, the Palestinian Women’s football was created and three women were elected to the Football Association.

The Palestinian women’s team was also set to play a friendly against a team from the United Arab Emirates and though security forces stopped the visitors for a few hours delaying the match, both teams went ahead to play in Bethlehem.

Attending the ceremony was James Rowley, representative of the United Nations, who outlined thee priorities:

1) To support Palestinian players and their development, and the reduction of obstacles (cultural) they face in their country until achieving efficiency of sports

2) Ensure that aid and assistance of all kinds for every Palestinian players, men and women, including athletes in Jerusalem East and the Gaza Strip

3) Ensure the provision of adequate infrastructure, in all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Living in an area bombarded by air strikes renders these objectives quite difficult. But the people of Gaza are resilient and shall move forward and continue in the face of apartheid.

Hopefully, Al Jazeera will also be rebuilt quickly in order to guarantee the continuity of sport in Gaza and give the people an opportunity to grow and thrive and express their humanity and normalcy in a land ruled by occupation.

Gaza Stadium is being used for prayer already. Now, it should be reconstructed to allow for play.



Shireen Ahmed is a frontline worker in Social Services, writer and footballer. Her passions include her amazing family for online personal loans, Barca, coffee and her two cats. She writes about her experiences in football and sport in her blog “Tales of a Hijabi Footballer”.

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