As they embark on the 2026 men’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the Palestinian squad not only face life or death but also mental turmoil, as Israeli bombardment continues to batter their home turf.
The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) called on the International Olympic Committee, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to take urgent measures to protect their Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza against Israeli aggression.
In a statement reported by Wafa, the Palestine News Agency, PFA stated that Israeli occupation forces had transformed the Yarmouk Stadium in the Gaza Strip into a detention centre, abusing innocent Palestinian civilians.
The PFA statement voiced the overall protection of Palestinian sports facilities.
It further denounced Israel’s attack against youth, sports, and scout movements in Palestine.
The news of the need for urgent measures comes amid the Palestinian national team gearing up for the 2023 Qatar AFC Asian Cup, the 2026 World Cup, and the 2024 Asian Cup qualification.
The statement issued by the PFA also called for the opening of an urgent international investigation into the occupation’s crimes against sports and athletes in Palestine.
In the wake of the war, Mohammed Al-Rakhawi, a striker for the Palestinian Shabab Rafah Sports Club, came close to death as his home was reduced to rubble during Israel’s bombardment.
Pulled from the rubble of his home, the Palestinian footballer’s near-death experience failed to receive the attention of FIFA.
As footballers in Gaza remain subject to the full wrath of war, analysts have questioned the silence of FIFA on condemning Israel for its sustained attacks, especially as it will have an impact on the performance of Palestinian players.
Unlike the war in Ukraine, in which FIFA adopted both a legal framework and charitable approach to those affected by the Russian invasion, the football governing body has yet to state any support towards Palestinians publicly.
Israeli military’s brutal campaign since October 7 has killed more than 20,424 Palestinians, predominantly women and children.