Feature: Football match in Gaza becomes unusual as players, referees are deaf

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-5-20 10:28:01

In any regular football match, fans on terraces loudly applause when players scream at each others, asking another player to pass the ball to his colleague to score a goal and suddenly the referee whistles due to a foul, but the situation is totally different in a Gaza football match.

In a football stadium in northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, the situation was completely different where all the players, the referees and most of the fans sitting on the terraces were deaf. Instead of shouting or whistling, the scene was amazing when referees used colorful flags instead of the whistle.

The deaf players can never hear the whistling, therefore, and while they are playing football, they keep their eyes on the referee to see the color of the flag he raises and shows if there is a foul, a corner kick or a penalty kick. Very few numbers of the fans are normal and their loud applauses can only be heard.

Ibrahim al-Kaseeh, a member in a Gaza-based organization to deal with deaf, told Xinhua that his organization, which sponsored the match: "A first of its kind, to merge deaf people in the community. We simply want the society to respect them because they are people who love life."

Jihad Salem, one of the match's supervisors, told Xinhua that the deaf football team played with another normal team in Gaza and won the game two weeks ago, adding "in today's match, two deaf teams are playing and when there is a foul, the referee waves his flag and the sign is understood that there is a foul.

"The day our team has a match to play, many normal people and players from other teams come and join the audience to watch the match," said Salem. "Fans watching the match were so amazed of how smart the payers are and how good football players they are."

There are 25,000 deaf people in the Gaza Strip, where most of them don't receive proper treatments. The reason behind having such a high number of disabled people in Gaza is related to genetics due to the marriages of close relatives as well as the lack of medical care when their mothers are pregnant.

Osama Rajab, a 23-year-old deaf Palestinian from Gaza, told Xinhua with the help of signs translator: "We are looking forward to have a union for deaf and non-deaf people are invited to join our union and then we can race in international football matches."

He went on moving his fingers and lips, while al-Kaseeh was translating: "The problem is that everyone here takes care only of intact people, therefore I'm so concerned about the deaf and I want to train deaf children to send a message to the world that we are not different from intact people."

Naseem Abu Shadaq, the team's captain, who is also deaf said while al-Kaseeh was translating to Xinhua that "deaf people in Gaza has an ambition to be merged in the society by joining sport and playing football matches with intact football players."

The Palestinian law for disabled people includes a series of provisions that focus on the social, human and economical needs of deaf people, and also obliging official ministries and institutions to have five percent disable Palestinians of its total employees.
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