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7-year olds in Gaza have suffered three wars and yet they're still trying to play football

Brian Kerr and Trevor Hogan have launched a new initiative to bring children from Gaza to Ireland to play football.

Brian Kerr helps launch Gaza Kids to Ireland this morning.
Brian Kerr helps launch Gaza Kids to Ireland this morning.
Image: Peter Houlihan/PH Photography

A TEAM OF Palestinian children will play football in Ireland next summer thanks to an initiative launched today by former Ireland football manager Brian Kerr and former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan.

15 members of the U14 team from the Al-Helal club, based in northern Gaza, will play against teams from Dublin, Tipperary, Limerick and Belfast during their trip next August.

The initiative, organised by Gaza Action Ireland and Antrim to Gaza will see the children travel across Egypt’s Sinai desert because of the blockade of Gaza but Kerr feels the trip will be worthwhile.

“People in Gaza are absolutely mad about football, it’s extraordinary. They’ve 56 operating teams in Gaza. They can have huge numbers, 20,000 people at a league match in Gaza, yet they have to deal with extraordinary restrictions.

“Children don’t have any choice about war, about who engages with war, but they suffer more than anyone. In Gaza, anyone who is over seven has already suffered through three wars and yet they’re still trying to play football.

“You’ve kids whose aspiration – much like many kids in the poorest parts of the world – is to become football players as they see it as a vehicle to get them away from their difficult lives, particularly in Gaza because of the poverty that’s there, some of it heavily imposed on them obviously.

“Always in this situation there is a desire for escapism, a desire to improve themselves and in this case, as it is in many countries, it’s through football.”

Brian Kerr launches Gaza Kids to Ireland Brian Kerr and Trevor Hogan hope other Irish sportspeople and clubs will get involved. Source: Peter Houlihan/PH Photography

Hogan, who has been involved in campaigning for the people of Gaza since his retirement from rugby, says they would rather the kids could arrive via a more direct route but that it’s “virtually impossible” to see that being allowed by Israeli authorities.

“It’s a long trip but that’s the reality of the siege and so it’s a reflection of the difficulties they face. We’re just trying to give a taste of normality and a bit of hope to kids who are deprived of that.

“We’re hoping for as much support as we can from the people of Ireland and to give the kids an experience they will never forget. The kids are just really excited about the prospect of getting to leave.

“We hope it’ll be a once in a lifetime experience for the kids and we hope it gives them a taste of what life can be like outside the blockade.”

When they’re here, Hogan hopes the Football Association of Ireland will become involved and perhaps help with a tour of the national stadium or trips to SSE Airtricity League games.

“We’ve already got involvement from the Palestinian Football Association and it would be great to get involvement from the FAI and if we could get the kids even a tour of the Aviva stadium, something like that would be great.”

The ‘Gaza Kids to Ireland’ football initiative being organised by Gaza Action Ireland and Antrim to Gaza. For more information click here

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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