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Palestine starts first-ever national football team for amputees

By Ranjit

Bengaluru, December 3: In a first of its kind, Palestine launched an amputee football team in the Gaza City on Friday (December 2) to coincide with International Day for People with Disabilities.

The team trained at the Palestine Stadium in Gaza City under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

According to reports in foreign media, the 20 players on the team were selected from among five Gaza clubs for players who lost limbs.

Player Hassan Abu Kareem, 38, said his leg was amputated after he was injured in an Israeli raid on Al-Maghazi refugee camp in 2006.

"From the moment of injury, my life has not changed," he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

"I continued with my ambition and great goal in life, and my goal is to represent Palestine and to make an achievement for myself in the field of sports."

The Gaza Strip is home to some 1,600 amputees, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Red Cross spokeswoman Suhair Zakkout said the players were setting a new Palestinian standard after the first local team began in 2019 with several players.

"Today, these players make history by forming the first national football team for amputees," she said.

Zakkout said the players were training for qualifying matches to be held in March 2022 in Iran. If the team succeeds, they will go on to the Amputee Football World Cup, slated to be held in Turkey in late 2022.

Fuad Abu Ghaliun, chairman of the Palestine Amputee Football Association, said his group applied to join the World Amputee Football Federation in 2019. Their candidacy was accepted earlier this year.

Coach Simon Baker, himself an amputee, said he was working with players "in a way where people see the football being played, and not the person with a disability."

"We want people to respect the players and see them for Ahmed or whoever it is and not see them as somebody broken. We want to make heroes of these players," said Baker, who founded the Irish Amputee Football Association.

The Palestinian team is in the isolated Gaza Strip, whose two million residents have been locked under an Israeli blockade since the Islamist movement Hamas took control in 2007.

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Read more about: palestine football feature fifa uefa
Story first published: Saturday, December 4, 2021, 11:10 [IST]
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