Lost champions: Remembering Palestinian athletes, scouts, and coaches slain in Gaza

Lost champions: Remembering Palestinian athletes, scouts, and coaches slain in Gaza

PAIRS-Calls to ban and boycott Israel from the major sports competition over the slaughter in Gaza have been louder and wider with less than three months to go until the 2014 Summer Olympics in Paris. Human rights advocates have launched a campaign to prevent Israeli regime-affiliated teams from competing in the Olympics in Paris and other international sporting events. In light of the ongoing genocide in Gaza, the Palestine Football Association (PFA) petitioned FIFA, the organization that oversees international football, to ban the Israeli football team last month.

Profiles of fallen athletes

“The entire football infrastructure in Gaza has been either destroyed or severely damaged,” stated the letter. “The loss of innocent lives, including no less than 99 footballers, the destruction of homes. Are clear violations of international law.” The letter was sent a few days after the famous Palestinian football player Mohammed Barakat¬† who played for both the Palestine national team and Ahly Gaza was murdered by an Israeli bombing of his Khan Younis city home. More than 300 Palestinian sports clubs, youth centers, and civil society organizations started a campaign in January demanding that Israel be excluded from the Paris Olympics. “We demand that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) uphold its values and perform its duties by prohibiting Israel from competing in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France, until it puts an end to its flagrant transgressions of international law, especially its system of apartheid and the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” the campaign said in a statement.

Coaches remembered

A pan-European political movement called Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), which was established in 2016 by a collection of European lawmakers, also started a petition in early January urging sports regulatory bodies to ban Israel. As of last month, the petition had amassed over 92,000 signatures. 

The effort has gathered steam over time, but the world’s governing organizations of sports are unmoved, exposing their obvious hypocrisies and apathy to the genocide against the Palestinian people that has claimed over 34,000 lives since October 7. At least 97 athletes, 32 officials and technicians, and 18 scouts have been reported killed. The Palestinian Football Association claims that throughout this time, dozens of people have been hurt, numerous more have been taken into custody, and the sports infrastructure has suffered damage. A list of Palestinian athletes murdered, maimed, and imprisoned by the Israeli government since October 7, 2023, was made public by the organization. It might not, however, contain the names of every victim.

Impact on Palestinian sports

In retaliation for Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7, Israel has been bombarding the besieged enclave nonstop, causing some players to lose loved ones. Football grounds have been utilized as improvised graves for some of the deceased as many cemeteries are either full or inaccessible. A large portion of Gaza, including stadiums, has been turned to rubble as a result of air and artillery bombardment and a ground onslaught. From the team’s training base in Saudi Arabia, coach Makram Daboub observed, “Everyone is glued to the news, before and after training, be it on the bus or at the hotel.” Palestine¬† played its debut match against Iran on January 14 at the 2023 Asian Cup, which will be held in Qatar from January 12 to February 10.¬†

Calls for justice

The Palestinian Football Association President, the PFA family, and the whole Palestinian sports community would like to express their deep condolences for the martyrdom of Hani Al-Masdar (Abu al-Abed), the general coach of the Olympic national team and a former Palestinian football star. Due to the third month of Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, Abu al-Abed climbed, joining the ranks of Palestinian sports movement martyrs and football martyrs. This is but a small portion of the atrocities committed on the Palestinian sports community ever since the Israeli bombing campaign began. Since the October 7 Hamas raid, Israel is said to have killed 88 elite athletes, 67 of them were soccer players, according to the Palestinian Football Association. The organization also reports that 24 administrators and technical workers have perished. One well-known soccer player, 23-year-old Ahmed Daraghmeh, was slain by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, not Gaza.

Boycott Pairs Olympics 2024

Calls to boycott the Paris 2024 Olympics are intensifying, driven by the tragic loss of Palestinian athletes, scouts, and coaches in Gaza due to Israeli military action. Advocates are urging the international community to reject Israel’s participation in major sporting events, including the Olympics, as a response to ongoing violence and the severe impact on Palestinian sports.

Conclusion

In conclusion, When one considers that the Pairs Olympic Committee was suspended by the IOC for breaking the Olympic Charter after it invaded Ukraine and took possession of its sporting grounds, the hypocrisy becomes even more apparent. 

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Fiona Anderwood