Archive for the ‘Liberation Footbology’ Category

MSWell done to The Morning Star newspaper for being the only UK paper to bother to report about the wonderful football solidarity tour that I mentioned here last month.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-ebfb-Easton-Cowgirls#.VK1fDyusWKY

However, there’s also another editorial by Sanaa Qureshi, published on the Morning Star site the same day, (please click link) which opines that:

“More broadly, I think we have to take a step back from valorising football both in Palestine and generally. Although it is a brilliant and universal hook to connect with people and harness collective power, it is still a sport that reproduces the same hetero-patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy prevalent in the rest of society.

“I think when we consider the use of football as a useful tool to break boundaries and engage with people, we also have to recognise the complicity of how the industry of football perpetuates inequality.”

I thoroughly understand why many on “the left”, typified by Qureshi’s article, are sick and tired of modern football’s perpetuation of inequalities and its crass top-down gestures like the ill-conceived FC Barcelona ‘peace match’ she refers to. However I couldn’t disagree more with her apparent despair as to football’s potential as a multi-faceted medium for the promotion of awareness and change, on almost any issue you care to name. Football is what you make of it, and groups like Easton Cowgirls FC and Republica Internationale FC do try to make it something different.

“Another kind of football is possible.”

Here’s the start of my original blog post, as published here last month.

Football Against Apartheid in West Bank Palestine

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Football Campaigning, Liberation Footbology, Republica Internationale FC 

wall
Earlier this month two women’s football clubs from the UK, Easton Cowgirls FC of Bristol and Republica Internationale of Leeds, embarked on a trip of a lifetime to the occupied territories of Palestine. The tour aimed to build solidarity with the women footballers of Palestine and for the UK teams to learn about life under occupation…. (see full original report).

Advertisements

I can’t think of a precedent for any neighbouring country having openly raided the offices of an occupied country’s Football Association, though I’m sure that Nazi or Stalinist armies would have readily done so during the turmoil of the mid-twentieth century (had they not just been able to quietly replace the incumbent executives with their own appointees, where they deemed it necessary).

Israel has as yet supplied no explanation for its forces raiding the Palestinian FA’s offices in Ramallah on Monday 24th November, when three military Israeli patrols raided the HQ, blocked the employees from going about their business and thoroughly inspected the offices without giving any information about the reasons behind their acts.

Palestinian Football Federation president Jibril Rajoub said that “What happened last week had no precedents in the history of sport … we want to represent the values of the game of football rather than the violence of the guns and rifles. I do believe that this disgraceful act requires a position from the family of football and I think it is the time to take sanctions.”

This was an incursion by Israeli forces into Area “A” of the West Bank, over which the Palestinian National Authority(PNA) has jurisdiction for both civil affairs and security. “Area A” includes most large Palestinian towns – including Ramallah where the PFA HQ is situated, so the Israeli action once again showed a flagrant disregard for the Oslo Accords.

According to a Ma’an News Agency report, when PFA Director of International Affairs Susan Shalabi asked an Israeli officer the reason for the raid, he merely responded that it was “not a raid”. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=742363

Before Israeli forces left the place they tried to prevent journalists from taking pictures.
PFAHQ

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa condemned the “unjustified aggression” on one of the Federation’s affiliates, calling it “unacceptable”.

It is not known whether Israel’s actions are a precursor to attempts to further hinder the freedom of movement of Palestinian international players in the run-up to their first major international tournament, the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, but the occupying forces have long tried to disrupt travel and preparations for Palestinian players, as they do for all the citizens of the occupied territories. Rajoub naturally expressed his fears that this may turn out to be the case, calling on FIFA to put pressure on the Israeli authorities to ensure that the players are allowed to travel for preparation and for the tournament itself.

As well as qualifying for AFC Asian Cup for the first time in its history, the Palestinian national side was also awarded the distinction of being voted “Best National Team in Asia” for the year 2014.

Condemnation by the Asian Federation is natural of course, but will UEFA now join them in condemning this action by the government of a one of its own favourite members? We won’t hold our breath.

wall
Earlier this month two women’s football clubs from the UK, Easton Cowgirls FC of Bristol and Republica Internationale of Leeds, embarked on a trip of a lifetime to the occupied territories of Palestine. The tour aimed to build solidarity with the women footballers of Palestine and for the UK teams to learn about life under occupation. The joint team’s slogan for their tour was “Freedom Through Football”, a message that they wrote on Israel’s separation wall (pictured above), along with the words “we will share your story”.

“It wasn’t always an easy experience emotionally” said Chrissie P (the captain of the joint team). “We met families who had just had their houses knocked down and we witnessed total apartheid, but equally we were so warmly welcomed and met some amazing people. I think we all knew before we went out there that the only thing we would change would be ourselves. But the one thing that we can do, and that we are doing, is to speak to everyone we can about everything we experienced.”

Having been in Palestine for less than 24 hours, they had to hit the ground running when they played the national under-19’s team at the country’s national stadium in Al-Ram. “It was an amazing atmosphere” added Chrissie. “We lost 5-1, but as we scored two own goals it was like 3-3 really!”

The second game could not have been more of a contrast. Played behind closed doors and with no male spectators or cameras allowed, Hebron University Women had never before played a competitive game. “Maybe we laid off them a little too much” says midfielder Sarah, “it was 4-4 and with the clock counting down from 10 seconds we hit the post, the rebound was cleared straight to their forward who pulled out a fantastic strike to win the game bang on full time!”

The final game was against Bethlehem Diyar, a team who have regularly won the Palestinian national league (which currently stands at 12 teams). “They had a number of players from the women’s national team and they were shit hot” said Sarah. “But it was never going to be about winning. What struck me most was when chatting with one of players afterwards, she explained that she had been inspired to take up football seriously in 2001 when her cousin, who she first played football with as a child, was shot dead in his house by Israeli soldiers.”
teams

“It may be a bit of a cliché, but football really is the international language”, said Chrissie, explaining that the visiting group’s contacts also took them on visits to other projects in the Hebron area – amongst these a women’s co-operative that employs 120 women allowing them an income by selling traditional embroidery and needlework. They also visited projects in the South Hebron hills area, where the ever-increasing number of illegal Israeli settlements threaten the very existence of the villages struggling to maintain their traditional subsistence farming way of life.

The Easton Cowgirls from Bristol and Republica Internationale from Leeds are football teams with a bit of a difference. Although they play their regular league football, both are also involved in fundraising activities, community initiatives and politics.

“Our clubs are involved in a European network of DIY/alternative football teams” explains Chrissie “We play in annual tournaments including the Anti-Racist World Cup in Italy and are friendly with several like-minded teams across Europe, including the famous St.Pauli FC women.”

The tour participants are currently editing film footage they took and hope to produce a short documentary of their trip early in the new year.

Ahed Zaqout was not a military general, or any way a military man. In his day he was a midfield general on the football pitches of Palestine, but is now one more murdered Palestinian, one more statistic on the list of the innocent massacred by Israel’s war machine. The Palestinian football star was killed after an Israeli bomb struck his apartment in Gaza while he was sleeping, it has been confirmed. Emergency services rushed to the home of the former midfielder on Thursday but were unable to save his life.

AhedA

Zaqout had recently been working as a coach and as host of a Palestine sports programme in Gaza. Khaled Zaher, a Gaza sports journalist told Reuters: “Palestine has lost one of its best players, he may have been the best midfielder we ever had.”

20 years ago he was in his prime and was a part of the Palestinian team that played a friendly against a team of French stars that included UEFA’s president Michel Platini in 1994. Four years later, the Palestine football team was accepted into FIFA.

Perhaps his death was one of those that are being celebrated on the distant hillsides by crowds of exultant Zionist onlookers, who have gathered to cheer each Israeli bomb strike like ecstatic football fans?

***************************************************************************************

Last month Mona Dabdoob, from the Palestinian Players’ Federation, presented FIFA chiefs with a dossier of restrictions and attacks from Israel on Palestinian football as they met in Brazil.

FIFA ruled out sanctions against Israel but said it would monitor the country’s alleged violations of Palestinian football, including preventing players from travelling to and from matches.

In January two young Palestinian footballers from Abu Dis FC, Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were reportedly shot by Israeli snipers, beaten up and had dogs set on them as they walked home after training.  Abu Dis FC play in the shadow of the Israeli apartheid wall, on a pitch where some of our own Republica Internationale FC members have played on a previous tour of Palestine with Easton Cowboys FC.
“There was no alarm, no identification or warning,” Jawhhar told  reporters. Adam said that he was shot first in the leg. As Jawhar tried to drag him to safety, he was shot repeatedly in the hand and leg — 11 times total. Adam was shot once in the knee and two times in the other leg. The teenagers told the website that as they lay screaming, Israeli forces set a dog on them.

Jawhar (let) fplaying for Abu Dis before the shooting and torture by israeli occupying forces

“They hit my head with a gun and they broke the leg with a gunshot in. They forced my leg backwards until it snapped. They were joking and laughing.” Adam said.

Israeli police maintain that the teenagers were moments away from attacking the nearby police base.

torture

After transfer to hospital in Amman the young footballers were told they would never play again.

Medical reports indicated that Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot. The two were taken to Ramallah governmental hospital before being transferred to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, where they were told they would never play again.

*********************************************************************************************************

On March 10 Saji Darwish, Birzeit student and player for Beitin FC, was shot dead by soldiers near the West Bank settlement of Givat Assaf, close to Ramallah. It was alleged that he was throwing stones at vehicles belonging to Israeli settlers in the area.

In response to a previous dossier of Israeli violations of Palestinian footballers’ basic rights to play football in the West Bank, which was presented to the FIFA Congress in October 2013, FIFA President Sepp Blatter predictably set up a “Task Force”. Which has so far achieved precisely nothing.

Claire has now edited her own footage of the recent tournament in Argentina into a seven-minute video:

FC Che Guevara Copa America Alternativa Cordoba Argentina 2012 from claireblue on Vimeo.

We’ve been sent a short “trailer” for a documentary that was made at the Alternative Copa America which  we attended in Argentina in January (see report, here).   The video was made by the ‘Hombre Nuevo Collective”, named after Che Guevara’s famous dictum, and is mostly in Spanish of course. But at least it gives you a taste of the atmosphere. You can almost taste the dust, that’s for sure.

Have a look too at this video that Claire made the previous weekend in Brazil:

The Europeans visit Autônomos FC Brazil from claireblue on Vimeo.

The organisers of the event in Argentina said that they were inspired by our own “Yorkshire’s Altenative World Cup” in 2010. Here’s the short video that Claire made of that event:

Yorkshire’s Alternative World Cup from claireblue on Vimeo.

A report from the first ever Copa America Alternativa, in Jesús María, near Córdoba, Argentina.  January 28th-29th 2012.

Our squad with the lads from Dos de Mayo

This is my kind of football tournament. Before kick off, we present the opposition with our regalia: an Easton Cowboys/Girls FC tour shirt and a Republica Internationale FC scarf. In return they give us a copy of their Revolutionary Party newspaper, calling for strikes and marches against the cuts and tax policies of Argentina’s Kirchner government.   At the tournament’s opening ceremony we’ve been welcomed in the name of Che Guevara to the town of Jesús María, in this corner of Córdoba  province where the great freedom fighter  grew up. Or more accurately we’ve been welcomed in the name of the local football club, Che Guevara FC, a club founded by local hero Monica Nielsen and friends, who are fighting to give an opportunity to the sizeable proportion of local youngsters who can’t even afford the subscriptions to any other conventional local football team. We’re here to help them in their struggle to get a permanent home, their own pitches and clubhouse. For this event, they’ve borrowed the grounds of another local amateur club. It’s the height of a 35-degree summer, and the pitches hold onto some thin, dusty grass, but effectively we’re playing on hard dirt again.

I’ve sometimes been criticised for using too much hyperbole when I write about our footballing adventures. Everything is ‘brilliant’, ‘wonderful’, ‘great’, ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’, ‘fantastic’, etc., and I know that sort of gushing enthusiasm can get a bit boring.  But I’m sorry – this event was, truly, all of the above, especially when you consider that this was the first tournament that Monica and her comrades have ever organised. Their hospitality was just … all of the above again. First the most important things: the food they laid on, especially from the grill, was excellent and the beer, £1.50 per litre bottle, included the unexpected bonus of bottled Argentinian stout!

And of course the quality of football itself, played by the five Argentinian,  three Brazilian, one Chilean and one Bolivian teams, was all of the above too – just outstanding. But they perhaps expected more from us Gringos, in our English ‘Cowpublica’ team and one International All-Star Mixed XI.  A look at World Cup history tells you that Latin American teams always win tournaments in Latin America, and the only Europeans to perform to their full potential in the main tournament here were in fact our Lithuanian friends from FC Vova. Their strategy was to arrive with just a handful of their own players and immediately recruit all the home team’s best reserve players to represent them – an effective ploy, which almost got them to the semi-finals.

For the women’s event, it was a different story. 3 victories out of 3 matches for the Easton Cowgirls/Republica (AKA Cowpublica) Women’s XI saw them covered in glory. And covered in beer as well at one point.

'Cowpublica' met the hosts, FC Che Guevara, in the women's tournament final

But next time, we’ll have to bring some younger male players as well as young women, because in the main tournament we basically got hammered by fitter, younger, infinitely more skilful teams who of course were used to playing together and of course had no problems with the 35-degree-plus heat or the bumpy dirt pitches.

In the group games, the ‘Cowpublica’ XI  lost by  something like 1-4 and 0-4 to the two Sao Paulo sides (Autonomos FC and Lado B), and by 0-9 to the brilliant FC Dos de Mayo from Mar del Plata. The latter club, based in the home port of the Belgrano,  is named after the date of the sinking of that ill-fated vessel thirty years ago. They presented us with a pennant bearing their club badge,  showing the Belgrano sailing into the sunset above a map of the Malvinas.

Meanwhile, the International XI (also mainly ‘Cowpublica’ players, but also including our German, Belgian and French friends) lost  by (approximately)  1-6  and  1-7 in its group games  to teams from Cordoba and from Rosario.

In the knock-out matches on Sunday, our ‘Cowpublica’ XI, now adjusting  better to the conditions, came from two goals behind to take the Rio de Janeiro Lefties XI (“Pelada da Esquerda“) to penalties. Some observers alleged that it was in fact our three local ringers , coming off the bench when we were all getting exhausted and scoring our two late goals, who made the  difference, but this would be unfair on the fourteen heroes, men and women,  who battled back to achieve that glorious draw.

In the final that evening, the Dos de Mayo team from Mar del Plata, clearly the best footballing side at the tournament, were held to a dour nil-nil stalemate and then beaten on penalties by the team who had played throughout the weekend with the most heart and the most desire to win – our Sao Paulo friends Autonomos FC, whose player-manager Danilo had been such a catalyst for the whole event in the first place. Most importantly, though, this tournament confirmed the birth of a network of radical grass-roots football clubs in South America. We shared each other’s  stories of the struggle to establish grass-roots  football clubs with a social and political consciousness, and hopefully inspired each other to keep on believing that, as one of my favourite slogans puts it,  “Another Kind of Football is Possible.”

The event  finished with  a free concert in the town square, where flags, banners and speeches called for the town authorities to grant our hosts, CSAD Ernesto Che Guevara, a real permanent home. The next morning we just wanted a chance to thank Monica Nielsen for all her hard work in organising this – but she was already out and about, organising support for a council workers’ strike. The spirit of Che certainly lives on in this corner of Cordoba province!

Paulius (FC Vova, Lithuania ) and Rafa (Autonomos FC, Brazil) join Claire & Nigel at the bar

We’ve heard that the favourite to host next year’s version of this tournament is a club based in Montevideo, capital city of Uruguay. But those wonderful Rio rebels, Pelada da Esquerda  also fancy hosting an event of their own – so watch this space folks.

More photos of the event will be added over the next few days.