GAZA: Palestinian footballer Mohammed Abu Bayad, whose leg was amputated after being injured by Israeli fire, has become the first to score using crutches in a football match in Gaza.
Using his crutches Abu Bayad ran as fast as he could, kicked the ball and scored a goal becoming the first to score in a football match between Palestinians whose legs were amputated after they were hit by Israeli fire.
“I played football before I was injured and my life changed, but I was determined to continue,” said Abu Bayad, at a stadium west of Gaza City.
After a break of a few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament between four clubs culminated Thursday in the final, organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Football Association.
Abu Bayad was shot by the Israeli army in 2014 during the last war between Israel and Gaza’s rulers.
According to the United Nations, some 8,000 other Palestinians were injured by Israeli army fire during the “great march of return” protests that started in March 2018.
For several months, thousands of Palestinians gathered along the barrier between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state, heavily guarded by the Israeli army.
They were demanding an end to the decade-long Israeli blockade on the enclave.
They also demanded the right of Palestinians to return to the lands they fled, or were driven from, when Israel was created in 1948.
Ahmed Abu Nar, who also scored a goal for his team, lost his left leg during those protests.
“It was very difficult when I was wounded,” he said. “Playing football helps me psychologically and physically, and makes me happy.”
His teammate Mohammad Abu Samra said his interest in the game grew after his injury.
“I wanted to challenge myself and prove to the Israeli enemy that we will not surrender,” Abu Samra said.
For ICRC spokesman Hesham Mhanna, the players are “heroes,” “victims of armed conflicts” who send a message that it is possible to overcome obstacles stemming from disability.