Gaza and Their Football

Why is Messi a Palestinian hero??

On the eve of what is certain to be a brilliant Arsenal and Barcelona match, it is worth nothing that people in Gaza love football and will most likely be watching the match.  As I noted before, football tends to be overcome all problems in Gaza.  Barnaby Phillips is in Gaza, reporting for Al Jazeera, but, perhaps unfortunately for him, he is an Arsenal fan.

Phillips writes:

First, dear reader, a confession. I am an Arsenal fan, and this is an important game. When I explained this to a colleague in the Al Jazeera Gaza office, he looked concerned. “You must be very careful, it could be dangerous to watch that game,” he said.

It’s true, I had heard that Gaza could be dangerous, in various ways, but had not anticipated that watching a football match on TV, or my allegiance for Arsenal, would be a flash-point. “Everyone in Gaza is crazy about Barcelona, so you might want to keep a low profile,” he warned…

A friend of mine says that people in Gaza support Barcelona, because they share a passion for the welfare of children, (Barcelona, atypically in the world of football, has rejected lucrative shirt sponsorship deals from major companies, and instead chooses to wear the logo of the UN’s children’s fund, UNICEF, for free)…

Not only that, but Barcelona are winners, and people here don’t have too much to smile about.  (Another intriguing theory I’ve heard is that the Palestinians of Gaza, proud of an identity forged under such difficult conditions, admire Barcelona because of its ties to Catalan nationalism,  which has thrived despite disapproval from Madrid)…

Due to political tensions between Hamas and Fatah, all high level cup and league games have been suspended in Gaza since 2007.

But this week, there was good news. Football administrators here have overcome their differences, and just announced the resumption of competitive matches; the first game takes place later this week. (Watch out for a TV report on this in the next few days on Al Jazeera English from my colleague Casey Kauffman).

[tweetmeme] So Phillips will be the only person in Gaza sporting Arsenal red.  Considering that a Gazan man recently lost an eye in a football brawl, he should perhaps wear the kit only at home.

Photo from Journomania

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