The day Britain turned its back on Gaza football

Back in 2007 a team of under 19 Gaza footballers were invited to the UK to play a series of games against english clubs. The British government refused their visa aplications without explanation. 

gaza footballersThe British consulate in Jerusalem has refused to issue visitor visas to a team of under-19 soccer players from Gaza who have been invited to play two games in England.

The consulate denied the requests of all players and their accompanies such as the coach and other adults that were supposed to travel with them.

The British consulate would only say in response that none of the 25 applications submitted met the criteria for visa according to the immigration laws of the UK.

The tour, which included games with Chester City and Blackburn Rovers’ youth teams, was organised by Chester and Palestine Exchanges (Cape) and the University of Chester with the support of the Palestine and English Football Associations.

The players had been training for two months for the event and were disappointed to find out they won’t be able to participate in the games eventually.

“We were surprised. After training for two months under the conditions of siege and in these difficult circumstances, we were looking forward to go out to play in England, to see the British people and to play on pitches we only see in television. ,” said one of the players Muhammad Swairki.

“But we were disappointed from the message coming from the British embassy (meaning consulate) in Jerusalem that it refuses to let the team go, from reasons I can not understand”, he added.

The team’s coach, Abdul Hai Qassem, complained that their requests were rejected because officials apparently believe they will not return to Gaza strip due to the poor situation there.

Qassem claims this fear is unjustified because Palestinians love their country don’t want to be elsewhere.

He also expressed his disappointment at the refusal.

“We think that soccer is an international language of understanding, a language that exists in every place of the world. We hoped that our boys would meet the British people and we would change their (the players) opinion about the outside world,” he said.

The consulate said it regretted being unable to support a worthy cause and declined to be interviewed on the issue.

Original video footage here

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