Real Leaders

Gaza Amputees Turn To Football To Overcome Disabilities And Trauma

Omar was 19 when he lost his leg after a bullet tore through it on May 14, 2018, the worst day in a series of border demonstrations in Gaza. Today, following months of suffering from physical pain and psychological trauma, Omar is sending a ball across the football field with great force and determination.

“I asked myself: ‘Until when I am going to stay like this? Depressed and doing nothing,’ and so I started playing football on crutches,” Omar says. Gaza has some 1,600 amputees among a population of two million people. According to the Ministry of Health, 136 people lost limbs since violence escalated in the border areas one year ago. Out of 80 amputee football players, 20 lost their limbs after being injured in the border violence. 

The first amputee football team organized a game in Gaza a year ago. Earlier this year, a weeklong visit by Simon Baker, the General Secretary of the European Amputee Football Federation, became the first opportunity for the players to receive high-level coaching and hone their skills. It helped boost interest in the amputee football games in the strip, where five new teams were created, and the first tournament attracted crowds of fans.

Invited by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Baker trained 15 coaches, 12 referees and 80 amputee players in the Gaza strip. The project will continue in the coming months with the goal of creating a strong team to represent Gaza in international competitions.

An amputee himself, Baker lost his leg in 2004 in a building site accident. Since then he has pushed every boundary to prove that amputees can be athletes. ICRC helps people with disabilities fight stigma and gain confidence through sports, as part of its physical rehabilitation program in Gaza.