Soccer league helps Gaza amputees cope with war trauma

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Coach Simon Baker, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) consultant and founder of the Irish Amputee Football Association, trains amputee players of the first Palestinian national team for amputee football, at Palestine Stadium in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. The ICRC, working with Palestinian Amputee Football Association, sponsored the long process of forming the national team. The players hope to compete regionally, their sights set on the World Cup for amputees in Turkey next October. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The players race across the pitch on crutches, jostling for the soccer ball, passing it back and forth. Their prosthetic legs are lined up along the sidelines at a stadium in the Gaza Strip.

They are the first Palestinian national soccer team made up entirely of amputees, players drawn from a population of hundreds that has grown in recent years through rounds of fighting between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.

The most recent ceasefire was implemented in May of 2021, 11 days into a conflict that broke out between the Israeli government and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.

The fallout of suffering and mental disrepair created from these conflicts, however, does not stop when a ceasefire is agreed upon by the two sides.

Members of the league say it helps them cope with the trauma of their injuries and the hardships of living in Gaza, which has endured four wars with Israel and an ongoing blockade since Hamas seized power in 2007.

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