Gaza team soak up SA’s spirit of freedom

2019-04-30 06:01
Belal Shaqurah of the Khan Younis Services FC youth team from Palestine leads the celebration after he scored against an invitational team at Malta Park on Saturday 27 April. The visitors won 4-1.PHOTO: Rashied IsaAcs

Belal Shaqurah of the Khan Younis Services FC youth team from Palestine leads the celebration after he scored against an invitational team at Malta Park on Saturday 27 April. The visitors won 4-1.PHOTO: Rashied IsaAcs

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While South Africans celebrated their freedom over the weekend, this sense of freedom, often taken for granted, had newfound significance for a group of soccer players from the Middle East.

Khan Younis SC will return to the Gaza Strip next week after a historic visit to South Africa.

The team was scheduled to take part in the Bayhill Premier Cup last week, but due to travel complications, they only arrived in the country on Sunday 21 April, when the tournament already reached its final stages.

The team took five days to cross from Gaza to the Cairo International Airport encountering 27 checkpoints along the way.

As a result, the Al Quds Foundation, in partnership with the SSS Academy, who organised the visit, had to change flights to be able to accommodate the team’s arrival in Cape Town.

While they could no longer participate in the tournament, the Bayhill Premier Cup organisers were kind enough to allow them to play a friendly against Bayhill United, a match they won 3-1.

Next up was a visit to Salt River Blackpool Football Club (SRBFC) last Wednesday, where they were greeted by a big crowd in attendance.

Khan Younis SC held on, despite a late surge from the home team, to emerge as 2-1 winners.

“It was a huge honour for SRBFC to be selected to host Khan Younis SC from Gaza. I cannot remember when last we had such huge support for a football event at Shelley Road.

“The match was exciting, the crowd, who enjoyed themselves and the support for both teams was amazing. Our players enjoyed themselves. Our captain, Ijaz Dalwai described the event as ‘life-changing’ and an opportunity of a lifetime,” says SRBFC chairperson Iqbal Kasker.

Khan Younis SC’s third game of their tour took place when they opened the SSS Academy Festival on Freedom Day in South Africa, against an AMS XI, the visitors ran out easy 4-1 winners.

Two of Khan Younis players had their tour cut short with injuries during the Saturday game. As a result, they had their wings clipped in their final game of the SSS Academy festival, when they were beaten 2-1 by the SSS Academy team.

Despite the loss, head of Khan Younis SC delegation Dr Said Elnamrouti realised the historical significance at bringing the group to Cape Town.

“This was a great opportunity for those under the age of 18 to come out of the Gaza Strip for the first time. It gave them hope that they are seeking a different life. A life of peace, a life of dignity, a life of freedom. So far, the entire delegation is enjoying the space of freedom and the beauty of Cape Town,” says Elnamrouti.

“Thankfully this journey enabled them to feel a different feeling. A feeling of safety, security, happiness and democracy that the people here enjoy. We can say, in short, that this visit was very successful and hopefully we will be able to do it each year to give those youth and other youth from different sporting codes [the chance] to enjoy at least a few days with their colleagues here in South Africa.


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