Gaza: Blind people persevere to catch up with the world of football

As soon as the referee unleashes his whistle, Blind Zia Abu Dayyeh begins to focus with his teammates to hear the sound of a "bell ball" rolling on a pitch in Gaza to prevent the opposing team from conceding a goal.

Abu Dayyeh (36 years), within the team (Islamic University Club), which played a game at Saad Sayel Stadium in Gaza City, in a local championship, against the team Deir al-Balah.

In his game with his teammates, Abu Dayeh relies on the bell ball, which is accompanied by a sound inside the ball, so that blind players can recognize their rightful place and try to counter them.

The game was characterized by suspense and fun amid the interaction of the large audience present, over the course of the game, which lasted 24 minutes ended in a draw, prompting the referee to extend another three minutes, for the two teams to determine who won.

After the extra time, Abu Deya was declared the winner, seven points behind their stubborn opponent, who gave the best of their three players.

The Palestinian Football Association (PFL) organized the "Bell Ball Championship for Persons with Visual Disabilities" under the patronage of Gaza Lovers Foundation Malaysia.

Six sports teams with visual impairment competed in the tournament, with six players each, three of whom are essential for field play, while three remain on the bench.

Abu Deya, a father of two, is considered one of the founders of the "bell ball" in Gaza, after returning from Saudi Arabia, where he played the game, to the Gaza Strip and move to play with several clubs to be known among the visually impaired.

“The game is mainly focused on concentration and hearing power, and then on fitness, which helps us react directly to the ball,” says Abu Dayyeh.

He expressed pride in being one of the first players and founders of the game in Gaza, stressing the need to prove that the blind have the ability to exercise and rely on themselves as misfits.

Abu Dayyeh wished to represent Palestine in international forums by attending foreign matches through which they hold the flag of Palestine and prove that the Palestinians are able to communicate themselves through various types of sports, including the sport of the blind, which is "bell ball".

Abu Dayyeh did not hide the existence of many obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals, the most important of which is the split between Fatah and Hamas, which directly affected the sports community.

In addition, the tight Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007, which prevents the entry of Gaza players to the camps of the Palestinian team, whether in the West Bank or abroad, according to local officials.

Goal ball, or bell as is commonly known, is a team sport designed specifically for athletes with low vision.

Players usually rely on their hands to hold the ball and the sense of hearing to locate it, and then defend their goal.

To ensure fair competition between the players, the eyes of the visually impaired are usually covered with white and then black bandages, lest they see shadows that help them see the ball.

Bassel Abed, spokesman for the Palestinian Football Association, said that the deployment of the game in the Gaza Strip is facing difficulties, especially due to internal division and the Israeli siege.

"We must represent our country by uniting Palestinian unions between Gaza and the West Bank. Even if we live in a political divide, it should not affect Palestinian sports, especially those of people with disabilities," Abed said.

The goal ball originated in 1946 after the end of World War II, and was invented by Austrian Hans Lorenzen and German Sep Rendel, in an attempt to help in the rehabilitation of veterans of that war.

Established in 1981, the first international federation and an official body for goalball is concerned with various sports related to people with visual disabilities.


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