20-yr-old Ahmad Mohammad al-Qatari, an up and coming footballer with Al-Amari Youth Center based in the Amari Refugee Camp in Ramallah was hoping to be picked up by a Palestinian football club prior to the 2014 – 2015 season. Sadly, that will not be the case.
Ahmad was shot and killed by an Israeli live round to the chest during clashes near a West Bank city of Ramallah a week ago. Word being that the ambulance was prevented from reaching him as he bled to death. He was among the players who had the ‘honor’ to meet and greet FIFA president Sepp Blatter while the latter made a quick stop in Palestine during his three country tour in 2008 as he expressed his desire for the freedom of play for Palestinian youth. His funeral was attended by people in numbers. His hope – goes away with him to his grave.
Only a few days’ earlier 19-yr-old Udai Nafeth Jabr (club unknown) saw a similar fate after being shot down during violent clashes with Israeli forces in the city of Safa, west of Ramallah. All we know at this moment is that Udai was in discussions with club officials to move up to the first team.
These deaths came days after another football player Abdul Rahman al-Zameli was killed in an air strike in the city of Rafah. Zameli played for al-Zaytoun football club. Bashar Ahmed, who played for Khadamat Jabalia sports club, and Ahmad Youssef Daloul, a member of the board of directors at Al-Taawon Club, were the other Palestinian player and official killed during the hostility, respectively.
The Palestinian Football Federation is no longer able to count on the total number of athletes who perished in the recent episode of this brutal genocide. Preliminary statistics from a special committee, appointed by Federation President Jibril Rajoub to look into the status of its athletes and infrastructure, indicate that somewhere between 15 – 20 athletes were killed including two coaches – most notable of them being legendary Palestinian footballer to ever grace the sport – Ahed Zaqout who was killed while he was asleep.
The 49-year-old former midfielder, whose illustrious career included playing against a France side and being part of the Palestine squad which saw it’s highest ever FIFA Ranking (85th) in 1985, worked as a coach and ran a Palestinian sports program in Al Shati Refugee Camp in Northern Gaza Strip.
The preliminary report included the number of athletes injured during the aggression and those who will not be able to play the game anymore. This list also included the name of the deputy head of the PFA – Ibrahim Abu Salim, who was injured by shrapnel from a rocket that landed next to him.
Of course, it’s not just athletes that can be remembered as victims of the aggression from a footballing angle. There had been several incidents with fans and those who were just playing the game. We all have heard about the four young kids who were killed as they played on the beach in Gaza.
However, one such incident, caught on CCTV, includes that of a devoted fan of the Hebron Youth Sports Club – Nadir Muhammad Saadi Idris, 42, who died earlier in the week after occupation forces opened fire on protestors in the West Bank city of Hebron. In the below video, he appears to have been singled out and shot at indiscriminately or possibly he was just an easy target as he stood still. Nadir was known among the management of the club as a passionate supporter who would travel to each and every away game the team played across the Occupied Territories. His funeral procession included many of the clubs supporters as they proceeded to pay their final respects to the member of the Hebron Youth Club family. The club had also canceled a game in honor of their deceased devotee.
Even with the presence of evidence as such, those responsible will be under impunity as is normally the case in these kinds of situations. The loss suffered by the future of Palestinian football, yet again, implies that no one is spared from the assault when Israel decides to, especially those living under todays real humanitarian debacle in Gaza. This comes after repeated calls recently by the PFA and FIFA towards the Israeli government to facilitate the movement of Palestinian athletes. Sepp Blatter was recently quoted as saying, “I am very much concerned with this situation in the region. We are heartbroken to learn that people from the football community have been killed. FIFA and I personally deplore this situation and any form of violence.”
The question is whether more can be done? Palestinian football had been climbing up the ladder of FIFA World Ranking in recent months as it qualified for the final rounds of the Asian Cup to be held in Australia, early next year. However, the recent aggression has impeded the possibility of assembling the team in preparation for the Asian Championships.
FIFA, along with regional Football FA’s need to pressure the Israeli FA into relaxing the laws and its punishment on the athletes of Palestine, however, in all reality, it is clear that it will never be achieved. FIFA is quick to ban FA’s whose government interferes in the authority’s decisions so the question arises in the case of Israel. One may effortlessly argue that it does not apply in this case. What’s clear is that current efforts have produced limited results.
For the moment, there are more important things than football and one can only hope and pray that the recent ceasefire agreed to, holds on permanently.