GAZA, PT – Amidst the relentless air assaults and impending ground invasion by Israeli Defense Forces, Ibrahim Saleh assembles his team of 11 soccer players, and coaches them through various plays and maneuvers. These are Palestine’s best soccer players, comprised of quick strikers and strong mid-fielders.
Residents of Gaza have called upon these 11 players as a front line of defense against Israel’s brutal military action that has intensified over the past several days. Gaza lacks a formal army, or any legitimate way of defending itself, having been isolated and cut-off from the rest of the world.
However, today these 11 players are expected to defend the 1.5 million besieged residents of Gaza through their love of the game, and commitment to their people.
Rami Yousef, Forward and Captain of the team practices penalty kicks with rocks, bricks and any other rough debris he can find on the streets of the Tuffah neighborhood. A functioning soccer ball is rare in these streets and considered a luxury for many local lovers of the game.
Coach Saleh praises Yousef’s pinpoint accuracy and fierce speed and adds the young player can target tank barrels and IDF machine guns.
“I have no doubt that Ibrahim and our forwards will be able to get several shots against their military. He has the speed, he has the legs, and most importantly, he has the will,” says Saleh, who is in his third year coaching the team.
Thirty-two-year-old Fatima Ibrahem, whose family was killed by the IDF during the 2012 operation says she is cheering for the soccer team from her one bedroom apartment where she lives with ten others.
“We don’t have a military, we don’t have planes, we don’t have the rest of the world, but the people of Gaza have these 11 heroes, and they will defend us to the end,” she says with an impenetrable sense of confidence.
Per the IDF, Israel is expected to initiate their massive military ground invasion within the next few hours. The players of the Palestinian Football Club, along with the rest of Gaza, wait.