The reality of sports in Palestine faces many challenges that hamper the Palestinian football dream. For example, Palestinian players need permits to cross Israeli checkpoints in order to get to football stadiums. In addition, Palestinian teams face difficulty in participating in international competitions as a result of travel restrictions that Israel places on them. Sometimes, local matches may be cancelled when rulers and officials are unable to attend them in Gaza or the West Bank.
Despite all these restrictions, the Champions Academy in the Gaza Strip has announced, last Thursday, the secondment of the first Palestinian youth footballer to a famous Spanish football Academy, in a proactive step in the field of Arab and Palestinian sports. This announcement happened through an official conference that took place at the headquarters of the "Wospac" Academy in Barcelona, Spain and It was broadcast online to the people of the Gaza Strip. Wospac Academy is a Spanish academy that prepares and supplies players to European clubs, such as famous Barcelona footballer, Jordi Alba.
Yusuf Ibrahim Eljamal was one of the players who was selected after matching Wospac Academy´s criteria at player level, specialisation, physical ability, language and other criteria. Yusuf Eljamal was born in Gaza City and he joined the Champions Football Academy in 2015. Eljamal has trained a lot until he was classified among the most talented footballers at the Champions Academy.
"This important step came after about two years of negotiations with a number of international and continental clubs and academies. These achievements will open a door of hope for sports talent and give them a sense of possibility to achieve their dreams of playing with the best clubs in the world. Gaza, and Palestine, in general, is a rich area of talents due to the lack of focus on them. The Gaza Strip is a talent market that has not opened yet," Jamal Yaghi, Planning and Development Manager in Champions Group, told MEMO.
The Champions Academy was founded in 2015, with the central goal to train and prepare young athletes. It also aims to prepare a generation of athletes who will be able to compete with others around the world. Yaghi explains, "The academy offers 8 different types of sports and follows international training methods in order to pave the way and open the doors for professionalism to our young players." He also adds, "The Academy researched a lot about international academies outside the Gaza Strip. It then began sending videos and communicated with a number of clubs. Among the clubs, we contacted Wospac Spanish Academy."
Wospac Academy is an international academy based in Barcelona, Spain. It has a long history in the field of football, supplying players to the international clubs. Over the past years, it has presented more than 30 professional players to European clubs, such as Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Academy is in partnership with many international football clubs, where it periodically trains its players at these European clubs, and then it qualifies them for international professionalism. "Wospac Spanish Academy asked us to send a Palestinian player for 6 months in order to complete the legal procedures for him, such as a medical examination and the legal registration, and then they can buy him officially to play in a European club,", Yaghi says.
The story of Gaza continues to be unique, despite all Israel's efforts to obliterate their love and hope for life. While Israel is determined to continue its constant violations against Palestinian people, the Palestinians are even more determined to prove their names and power around the world. Yusuf Eljamal is now awaiting a future that is full of challenges and hopes. Gaza Junior Athletes depend on him to get out from the siege imposed on them by the occupation for years, to fly and achieve the victory for all Palestinians. This siege did not prevent them from putting their name beside other international names. "We are confident that he will learn from this experience and achieve success towards international professionalism. Our eyes are always focused on emerging sports talents, to open horizons and best opportunities for them", Jamal Yaghi, Planning and Development Manager Champions Group, concludes.