Football and Palestine
Back in 2006 I posted on EFT about the destruction of the main football pitch in Gaza by an Israeli missile. It was an example of how even football is a legitimate target for Israel's policy of collective punishment against the Palestinians for resisting their ceaseless occupation. The link is here: Football in Gaza
It came just a year after Israel thwarted the Palestinian national football team's efforts to qualify for the 2006 World Cup by refusing permission for members of the team based in Gaza - whose borders the Israelis' control - to travel to Uzbekistan for a crucial World Cup qualifier on the well-worn pretext of security grounds.
So against this backdrop I was very glad to recently see hugely positive news regarding football and Palestine. For last Sunday there was a historic occasion in the newly built Faisal al Husseini Stadium in occupied East Jerusalem as Palestine competed in their first ever home international match in their own country.
Palestine played out a 1-1 draw against Jordan in front of a packed stadium including the FIFA President Sepp Blatter. See the match report here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7691924.stm
Football is one of the many institutions of Palestinian civil society that has been targeted by Israel to try to prevent the expression and coalescing of a visible, positive and bold collective national identity - which runs counter to the official Israeli policy of fragmenting, dehumanising and empoverishing the Palestinian people.
So for me this news of Palestine being able to play an international game on their own land has tremendous value as an outstanding visible affirmation of the Palestinian national identity to endure in the face of ongoing Israeli oppression and attempts to efface it.
The value of the game of football transcends itself on many occasions - and this is another shining example.