Gaza academy u-15 team get warm welcome in Cork for soccer friendly

Visit shows Palestinian players that not all the world is like Gaza , says academy official

Former Republic of Ireland Football Manager Brian Kerr takes part in a training session with players from Al-Helal Football Academy in Gaza, on Sandymount Strand in Dublin  earlier this week. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former Republic of Ireland Football Manager Brian Kerr takes part in a training session with players from Al-Helal Football Academy in Gaza, on Sandymount Strand in Dublin earlier this week. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Almost 80 years ago,Mardyke in Cork hosted the first soccer international to be played outside Dublin and today it played host to yet another visiting side when an under-15 Palestinian side took on the local club.

The friendly match that proved to be both just a game of football and yet something more.

The 18-strong party from Al-Helal football academy in Gaza have been in Ireland for just a few days and have already played teams in Dublin, Galway, Leitrim and Limerick. On Thursday afternoon it was the turn of Castleview AFC from Knocknaheeny in Cork to provide the opposition.

Zoe Lawlor, who was part of an Irish group that tried to break the siege of Gaza in 2011, explained that tour followed a visit by Irish activists in 2013 when they forged links with civil society groups in Gaza. This is the second year that Al-Helal football academy have come to Ireland.

Most of their players were smaller than their Castleview opponents but were extremely skilful and they deservedly took the lead when striker Mohamed Mahmokin (14) scored only for Castleview No 10, Benjamin Long to score twice in the second half to give the home side a narrow 2-1 win.

Castleview has a proud tradition of producing top players such as Miah Dennehy who scored a hat-trick in a FAI Cup final and former Cork City ace, Patsy Freyne. Castleview coach, Joe Sheehan was impressed with what he saw from the visitors as they kept the ball on the deck.

“They’re a good side, very well organised and its obvious they are playing a lot of football together - it’s great to be involved in something like. What they are going through over in their country is just unreal so it’s great for them to come here but also for our lads to find out a bit about them.”

Forced to travel without their two coaches and two players after they were stopped at the border by Israeli security, Al Helal, whose facilities have twice been bombed, acquitted themselves well. Academy president, Ayed Abu Ramadan was delighted with the welcome they received in Cork.

“We are overwhelmed at the generosity of the Irish people for inviting our young players here and I can see the impact that it has on them, not just as footballers but also in terms of their personal development as it teaches about the other,” said Mr Ramadan.

“It’s great that they get to see that the world is not all like Gaza because back home we don’t see any other people - we see just ourselves and the Israeli army and they think the whole world is like Israel so a visit like this reinforces hope for them for the future.”