From Gower To Gaza

The beach is a wonderful natural location to enjoy all manner of activities. There are those of us that surf, those of us who sunbathe, and those of us who play football. Whether you need peace and quiet, a good location for a barbecue, or a long flat stretch of land to play sport on, mother nature provides it for us.

Until I am full time writer, I have to do as everyone else and work a stereotypical office job for a living. The unfortunate business who is graced with my presence is a football academy based in South Wales. This weekend the football academy that I work for, The Champion’s Soccer Academy, were one of the leading figures in organising Swansea’s first ever Beach Soccer Festival.

The day looked set to be a success. Thousands were preparing to turn up to watch, and over 200 were scheduled to participate in the games that were taking place. The local press were covering it, and everyone was to have a good time. It was going to be quite an achievement, and all who were associated with the academy, and the Beach Soccer Festival, had deep sense of pride in what had been arranged.

My boss, Frankie, has said a number of times that the beach is a perfect natural resource for sport. It is free to access, available all day and all year round – as long as you can put up with the notoriously bad Welsh weather – and has been a place where many professional footballers have perfected their technique and practised their skills.

It makes sense to use what is available to you. If you love football, and you have access to the seafront, there is nothing stopping you spending the large majority of your time on the beach, with a ball at your feet.

One of the aims of the Beach Soccer Festival was to promote this thinking. It was to give the location back to the people. Remind them of its existence, and how it can be used to their advantage. With the Beach Soccer set to be an annual event, we were confident that the location would then be used for sport more regularly.

Here are some photos of the Beach Soccer Festival, showing a small number of the kids that participated.
Images taken from The South Wales Evening Post

Swa BSF 1
Swa BSF 2

Swa BSF 3

The crowds had gathered, and the final was about to begin when the festival was interrupted. The cheers of joy became panicked shouting, the faces of the children became horrified stares, and the football was abandoned as everyone ran from the sea front.

As the mass of people struggled to put safe distance between themselves and the beach, a deafening thud blew apart the pitch where not two minutes previously 10 children were gathered playing football. The football became obsolete as peoples priority switched to survival.

As the dust settled, and the shouting died down, the figures of four young boys lay motionless on the sand. Their limp bodies contorted into hideously unnatural positions. What had begun as a football game, had cost them their lives. The sandy beaches where they were re-enacting the World Cup, had become their premature deathbeds.

Of course I am not talking about the Swansea Beach Soccer Festival. Thankfully that had a much safer, and happier ending. What I am describing are the events of a Wednesday afternoon, on a beach in Gaza.

On Sunday 13th July in Swansea the Beach Soccer Festival was held, on Wednesday 16th July in Gaza a group of kids were having a kick about on the sand. There is no difference between the ages, there is no difference between the intentions, and there is no difference between the level of enjoyment that they were having. In both cases, it was simply about kids playing football on the beach and having fun.

Whilst the kids who participated in the Swansea Beach Soccer Festival got to go home in their cars, with their mothers and fathers, perhaps even the proud owner of a winners medal, the kids in Gaza were lucky to go home at all. Indeed, four of them never made it.

The images below are the last known photos of them alive. They show how the four boys desperately run to get clear of the beach before an Israeli naval missile explodes on the sand, killing all of them.

Gaza Footy Kids 1
Gaza Footy Kids 2

Their names were Mohammed Bakr, 9; Ahed Bakr, 10; Zakaria Bakr, 10; and Mohammed Bakr, 11. They were all related.

Eye-witness reports suggest that the group of children were deliberately targeted by an Israeli naval vessel, not once, but twice. Ahmad Thabet, 24, a worker for a Malaysian aid agency said: “The first missiles were aimed straight at the container. I then saw four escaping and they got about 200 metres from the container and another shell targeted them directly. Because it was so far from the container, I was sure they had been directly targeted.”

This is the reality of the situation for the people of Palestine. Trapped inside the largest open air prison in the world; completely at the mercy of one the most technologically advanced, and well financed military; with very little access to clean water, food and medical supplies; with no military of their own; and with mainstream media across the world portraying them as the bad guys, Palestinians get murdered on a daily basis.

The death toll for the latest round of Israeli military action, is now over 200. The overwhelming majority of those were civilians. One in five being children.

This is not a war, this is an extermination. Whatever lessons were learned from the Nazis persecution of Jews, have long been forgotten by those in positions of power within Israel. For some time now they have been the very things they despised, the oppressors.

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2 thoughts on “From Gower To Gaza

  1. This is very moving. As a Palestinian living in Swansea, I find this comparison to be very familiar, as I have made it myself thousands of times while engaging in any activity here. Even taking the train makes me sad every time, as I wonder why can’t Palestinians enjoy this freedom of movement as everyone else in the world.

    Thank you again.

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