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Soccer Is Overshadowed by the Gaza War as Palestine Prepares for the 2023 Asian Cup

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<p>The squad is having difficulty concentrating while the battle in Gaza, where hundreds have been murdered, rages on, two weeks before Palestine’s debut match at the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar.</p>
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<p>In retaliation for Hamas’s assault on southern Israel on October 7, Israel has been bombarding the besieged enclave nonstop, causing some players to lose loved ones.</p>
<p>Football grounds have been utilized as improvised graves for some of the deceased since many cemeteries are either full or inaccessible. A large portion of Gaza, including stadiums, has been turned to rubble as a result of air and artillery bombardment and a ground onslaught.</p>
<p>From the team’s training base in Saudi Arabia, coach Makram Daboub observed, “Everyone is glued to the news, before and after training, be it on the bus or at the hotel.”</p>
<p>Palestine will play their debut match against Iran on January 14 at the 2023 Asian Cup, which will be held in Qatar from January 12 to February 10.</p>
<p>Former Tunisia coach and player Daboub said over the phone that the players “have a constant feeling of anxiety for their families.”</p>
<p>When the national squad secured a berth in the Asian Cup for the third time, the Palestinian Football Association rejoiced in June of last year.</p>
<p>But as they attempt to get ready for the next tournament, the squad feels demoralized since there seems to be no end in sight to the Gaza battle.</p>
<p>“Due to the tournament’s suspension, we have psychological problems in addition to physical, technical, and tactical issues,” Daboub said.</p>
<p>Football matches in the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank have been stopped since the Hamas strikes on Israel on October 7.</p>
<p>According to Daboub, many players are having difficulties, especially those like Mahmoud Wadi and Mohammed Saleh who have family members stranded in Gaza due to the destruction of their houses.</p>
<p>He said, “They are in pain.”</p>
<p>He said that some people had family who had to evacuate the area due to the constant Israeli shelling in the north and seek protection in the south, “where conditions are difficult.”</p>
<p>According to the UN, Israel’s attack in Gaza has forced away 85% of its inhabitants, and no part of the densely populated region was secure.</p>
<p>The incident on October 7th was the worst in Israeli history, and the ensuing conflict in Gaza, which has been a long-running siege of 2.4 million Palestinians, has been the bloodiest to date.</p>
<p>The health ministry of the region reports that at least 21,978 persons, predominantly women and children, have died as a result of Israel’s ruthless onslaught.</p>
<p>The group wants to “show the honorable face of Palestinian football and qualify for the latter stages of the Asian Cup,” according to Daboub.</p>
<p>The coach said that flying the Palestinian flag internationally “affirms Palestinian identity and shows that people in Palestine deserve freedom and a better life.” This is the most significant aspect of the gesture.</p>
<p>According to Jibril Rajub, head of the Palestinian Football Federation, the Gaza War severely damaged “sports and youth” initiatives.</p>
<p>Rajub said, “More than 1,000 members of the scout, youth, and sports movements have died so far.”</p>
<p>“Palestinian sports clubs are being targeted by Israeli forces…in flagrant violation of the Olympic charter,” the speaker said.</p>
<p>He made particular notice of the “horrible images” that came from the Israeli troops’ conversion of the Gaza football stadium in Yarmouk “into a detention, abuse, and interrogation center.”</p>
<p>He was alluding to a video from Israeli media that showed a large number of Palestinians, including children, sitting on the stadium floor while they were naked.</p>
<p>The people in the video, which caused a stir on social media, were allegedly suspected of engaging in “terrorist activities,” according to the Israeli army.</p>
<p>According to Rajub, Yarmouk Stadium is among the oldest in the Palestinian territory, having been constructed in 1939.</p>
<p>The federation has demanded in writing an “urgent international probe into (Israeli) occupation crimes against sports and athletes in Palestine” from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.</p>


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