How Israel’s war in Gaza has changed Ramadan football | Israel’s War on Gaza News

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Deir el-Balah, Gaza For more than six years, Moath Raja Allah has been recognized as one of the top players in the Ramadan football game in Gaza.

The 19-year-old from Nuseirat has collected 12 trophies and countless honors thanks to his talent.

This year, Raja Allah is spending the month of Ramadan at the Al-Salah Football Club refugee camp in Deir el-Balah, in the middle of the Gaza Strip, after his family was displaced. Israel’s war in Gaza.

His only desire is to buy chicken for his family for iftar and break his fast on the rubble of his house, which was destroyed by Israeli bombs that also left a shrapnel wound on his head.

“Ramadan celebrations are no longer the same,” Raja Allah told Al Jazeera.

“They don’t have the competition, the passion and the excitement of previous years.

“Besides, we’ve been playing with a pack of food instead of a cup.”

More than 1,000 people who have fled their homes because of the war have taken refuge at Al-Salah Football Club, where football games and training sessions stopped five months ago.

However, in order to provide a temporary distraction to the families staying at its premises, the club has been running a five-a-side tournament during Ramadan.

“In preparation for this tournament, we are trying to deceive ourselves that Gaza is alive,” said Nabeel Abu-Asr, the club’s sporting director.

“We will give prizes to the top two teams, but maybe with a very small amount of money or a food package,” he said with a disappointed shrug.

“It sounds wrong, but we want to bring them joy.”

Two teams gather in the middle of the field before the start of the Ramadan match at Al-Salah Football Club in Gaza. [Abubaker Abed/Al Jazeera]

‘We are not children anymore’

Although far removed from the traditional Ramadan celebrations, this event provides moments of joy for the players and their families.

Mothers are very happy when their children score a goal. Young children enjoy every move and those on the pitch mimic the celebrations of their football idols.

Barefoot youths, or some with torn shoes, show off their skills on a large futsal court surrounded by residential buildings on one side and a street lined with palm trees on the other.

The sound of Israeli drones circling the area for a short time is due to the excitement of the people.

When the mission was over, the reality of the ongoing war began again.

For 12-year-old Real Madrid fan Karam Al-Hwajri, football is a reminder of his life before the war.

“I find solace on the football field,” he said after the game.

He likes to play as a goalkeeper but he doesn’t mind going down the pitch to be part of it.

“I know I will be killed, so I want to enjoy the last moments of my childhood.”

Despite his young age, Al-Hwajri knows the burden of war and says what the children of Gaza have endured is “beyond anyone’s ability”.

“We are not children anymore.”

Karam Al-Hwajri (right) takes a shot at the Ramadan football tournament at Al-Salah Football Club in Gaza [Abubaker Abed/Al Jazeera]
Karam Al-Hwajri (right) takes a shot at the Ramadan football tournament at Al-Salah Football Club in Gaza [Abubaker Abed/Al Jazeera]

Khalil Al-Kafarneh, a 16-year-old player, has been on the run since October. 10 members of his family left their home in Beit Hanoon, north of Gaza, as soon as the war started.

The Al-Salah Football Club camp has been home for three months, but they are struggling to survive, with little food and clean water.

Al-Kafarneh has been playing football for 10 years; He says the war has robbed him of his athleticism and creativity.

Khalil Al-Kafarnah (right) works during the Ramadan football tournament at Al-Salah Football Club in Gaza [Abubaker Abed/Al Jazeera]
Khalil Al-Kafarneh (center) participating in a Ramadan football tournament at Al-Salah Football Club in Gaza [Abubaker Abed/Al Jazeera]

“I rarely hit the ball. I am a high school student but I could not continue my studies. My house is a pile of ruins. There is nothing left.

A footballer who wants to represent Ittihad Al-Shujaiyya, one of the most famous clubs in Gaza. Then the war shattered his dreams and bombs hit the club.

More than 90 Palestinian football players in Gaza, including a famous player Mohammed Barakatthey are killed in the war with Israel.

Some of the most famous stadiums in Gaza, including the Al-Yarmouk Stadium and the Gaza Sport Club, have been destroyed or occupied by the Israeli army.

The United Nations said it is called The Gaza Strip is a “graveyard of thousands of children”.

Since October 7, Israeli attacks have killed at least 13,000 children, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Thousands more are missing from the ruins, many of them presumed dead.

Many of the survivors are injured and suffering from malnutrition lack of food, and the dangers of war.

Seven-year-old Nadeen Isa and her family moved to Al-Salah Football Club in January after their home was captured by Israeli forces in Rafah, southern Gaza.

He has been surviving on canned food since the war started and says he misses his favorite food: the shawarma sandwich. But Nadeen’s desire was not over.

“I want to be a nurse and a shooter,” she said while watching a football game from the sidelines.

“I wish I had been born in another country, so that I could play and study like any other child. I miss my school friends, my house and being under his roof.”

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