solidarity with palestine pakistani footballers call for the end of israeli brutality and occupation of palestine photo courtesy m arif file

Pakistani footballers stand with Palestine | The Express Tribune

Tooba Shakir 8 months ago 0 0



Pakistan football team has been the only sports outfit in the country that has played thrice in Palestine in the last two decades.

Pakistan national football men’s team played the two editions of the Al-Nakba Cups, named in memorial of ‘the great catastrophe’ which saw the massacre of Palestinians in 1948 to clear the land for the Israeli occupation.

They last played against Palestine as visitors there in 2018 in a friendly, which they lost 2-1 to the hosts.

More recently, just last month Pakistan also played Palestine in the Asian Football Confederation U23 Cup 2024 qualifiers in Bahrain. They lost that match 2-1 as well.

“We are standing with our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” said Pakistani footballers Muhammad Adil, Saadullah, and Muhammad Riaz. They have played in Palestine and with Palestinian players in their careers.

More than 1400 Palestinian civilians have lost their lives, and thousands have been injured in brutal attacks by the Israeli forces at the time of writing this report.

Most of the Gaza Strip population is now homeless due to the aerial bombardment by Israel in the last five days, according to reporters in Gaza.

The Israeli government is giving a clear call of genocide of the Palestinians through their channels.

The Pakistani footballers, who shared the field in Palestine, spoke against the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians in the world’s biggest open-air jail, the Gaza Strip, which has a population of two million with half of them being children.

Israel has cut off the food supplies, electricity, and water supply of the residents of the Gaza Strip. 

Pakistan’s midfielder Adil, who became the first player from the country to sign a foreign contract, spoke in support of Palestine, much like his then teammates Muhammad Riaz and Saadullah.

The three described their experience in Palestine to be surreal.

“It felt like we were entering a jail really, a prison,” Adil told The Express Tribune. He has played in several countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Malta, Cambodia, and Australia to name a few. 

“It was around the time I was playing for FC Dordoi. I was joining the team from Kyrgyzstan, so I was wearing a Russian jersey as well. They gave me so much protocol, and the Israelis were very welcoming, but as soon as they saw my Pakistani passport their tone changed, and they started to search for my bags aggressively, they kept me there for three hours, for three hours I don’t know why, I had to tell them to check with their ministry, I was a footballer playing in the international tournament in Palestine, I was an athlete. They issued a card to me that served as the visa after hours,” he recalled.

“As I entered Palestinian areas, I could feel like there was this atmosphere of suffocation, the walls, and everything, it was like I entered a jail. Palestinians living in these conditions for decades just made no sense to me.

“The entire journey from the airport to the Palestine area, I was worried that something bad would happen. That is the kind of condition that Israel had created even back then, in 2012 and 2014. I have been to Palestine twice, and this treatment of Palestinians like they are second-class citizens, or something like they are not humans at all, was deeply distressing.”

Adil shared that the Palestinians were extremely hospitable despite the apartheid they have been facing.

“We didn’t go out much on the streets. We went to Al-Aqsa mosque which had been a very intense spiritual experience, but each time we were accompanied by the Palestine Football Federation officials,” he said. 

“We saw the Israeli soldiers controlling who gets in and who doesn’t on a whim. They control everything when it comes to Palestinians, and one can really feel the mistreatment. When we were travelling from one city to another, the checkposts were endless, and they were built in a way that looked like bars in a jail. We had to keep getting off the bus each time, we had to keep proving that we were the national team of Pakistan.”

But then, when we looked at the treatment of the Palestinians it was much worse,” said Adil. “We were still travellers but the people who are native to that land were not allowed to move freely at all.”

He recalled that some families also visited the Pakistan players in the hotel and they were very welcoming, inquiring about their relatives in Pakistan.

“I just want to say to the world that they should pay attention to what is happening in Palestine,” said Adil. 

“They shouldn’t let Israel finish them, they shouldn’t let Al-Aqsa Mosque go to Israelis. I saw that the Jewish community in America too, a minority of them is speaking against the atrocities..”

“There is hope if all the Muslim countries and the gulf countries  come together and stand with Palestine, all of this can stop, and all of this must stop. The killing of Palestinians must stop, their women, children elderly they all deserve peace,” said Adil.

“They all stood with Ukraine, why can’t they stand with Palestine, the world must.”

As far as the playing style is concerned, Adil said that the Palestinian footballers have always been very spirited whether they are playing in the Palestinian national side, or otherwise, they had good exposure through the leagues in other countries.

In 2014, the Pakistani head coach Mohamed Shamlan was unable to stay with his team that was playing in the Al-Nakba Cup because Israeli forces did not allow him to, so he had to stay in Jordan for the rest of the event.

Similarly, Riaz said that one of the most vivid memories he had was attending the funeral of two young men who had been killed by Israeli forces when they were visiting in 2014.

“We went to the funeral of these two men, I remember this very clearly, and I also had this moment when I was praying at a place, it was near the bordering area of the settlers and the Palestinian people, they told me to not pray there because just a few days back there were people who got killed while praying by the Israelis, so that was harrowing but at the same time it was a moment in time to be truly feel for our Palestinian brothers and sisters.


“I just remember being there and thinking that there was so much cruelty, so much hatred towards the Palestinians, such injustice. I remember meeting with the Palestinian President, and he was a simple man, they are humble people. The facilities were good like the artificial grass was there. They played well, as they always do, and there was a sense of community too.

“I just want to say this, and I also pray that may Allah help them get their land back, all of their houses back, let there be the end to this Israeli occupation,” said Riaz.

Saadullah corroborated Riaz’s account and added that the weak statements from the United Nations and the international community have been disappointing and even more so now when the Palestinians are facing genocide at the hands of Israel.

“They have been oppressing Palestinians for decades now, the women, the mothers the children the elderly, all of these attacks and more severe ones since 2008-9 till now so many thousands of Palestinians being martyred, but most of these people have been blind, but now when Hamas retaliated, everyone is saying that Palestinians are bad.

“When we went in 2014, they were so helpless I remember we were in the hotel and we went on the roof, we could see the huge wall, and all Palestinian children could do was throw stones towards the fully armed soldiers, they couldn’t fight Israeli, they are helpless and innocent, and even then they are called terrorists?” he questioned.

“There was a night when we went on the roof when we heard the firing and it was from the Israeli forces and the Palestinian children were just throwing stones in retaliation.  It is high time that the Muslim countries take the initiative and come together to stop this brutality. Human rights are universal, we need the Muslim countries and international community to come together for Palestine, to come together against the injustice and atrocities that the Palestinians are made to live through.”

“As far as playing is concerned,  the Gulf country players have a brand of football, they understand football well, play smart football,” said Saadullah. 

“One on one, when we interact with them they are very friendly. I have played with Palestinians in UAE, Tajikistan, in Pakistan, in many matches we’ve played with Palestinian players and technically they are very sound,” explained Saadullah.

He added that just getting to Palestinian areas is very difficult.

“We went by bus because the Israelis have surrounded every area, it took us two hours and we had to get through so many check posts, so many gates, then again change the buses, just to get there was so difficult,” concluded Saadullah with a prayer that violent attacks on Palestinians by Israel stop immediately.



Source link

– Advertisement –
Written By

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

– Advertisement –