Five football players have joined Gaza’s first team for people with short stature.
They are training and coordinating themselves in order to take part in tournaments outside the Strip straight after Ramadan.
Formed by the Palestine Football Association for Amputees (Ahlia), the team is part of the Palestinian national football team for short stature, which was established in Lebanon in 2021, and is recognized by the National Football Association.
Amidst the whistles and cheers of the people and fans, which filled the gymnasium in Gaza, players expressed their hope that the team would “change society’s image of people with short stature and raise the banner of Palestine.”
The team is expected to play its first match in Morocco in May.
READ: Gaza readies for Ramadan
Forty-year-old Alaa Miqdad, who is 1.18 metres tall, has been working as a clown for more than 21 years. He expressed his joy at joining the first football team for people with short stature in Gaza.
Miqdad said: “For years, we have been practicing this sport as a hobby, and we play it with our friends in our neighbourhoods or in sports clubs, but for the first time we feel an entity that brings us together within one team, and gives us hope for valuable community participation.”
“Society’s view of people with short stature has changed with the spread of awareness, as this group was subjected to bullying many years ago, but today they have become an important part of society,” Miqdad continued.
His team mate, 34-year-old Haitham Al-Sakka disagrees. A community programmes officer at a British institution in Gaza, he believes that society has not changed its view of people with short stature.
Al-Sakka said: “The difficulties faced by short people in the Gaza Strip lie in the societal view that still treats us as people with disabilities and does not accept us.”
“This view affects the community participation of people with short stature and their access to services such as health, education and employment.”
“But we are breaking that view, through our participation in community activities,” he continued, “We are the owners of the issue and we are in the field today and we are the owners of change.”
He said he “began playing football when he was a student at school and developed this skill on his own,” pointing out that his team is carrying out “intensive training ahead of the next match.”
Head of the Palestine Football Association for Amputees, Fouad Abu Ghalioun, explained that the team has faced financial and technical difficulties since it was formed and has struggled to find sponsorship, especially as it is the first such team in the Strip.
The team also faces a struggle where the players’ health is concerned. “We do not have complete health knowledge of their condition, such as their ability to withstand ball shocks, their fitness on the field and their ability to deal quickly.” But the association is carrying out research by communicating with doctors from abroad to ensure that matches do not affect the team’s health.