Tuesday, 4 April 2017
In Idlib, Syrians find solace in soccer
'Even as war looms all around them, young Syrians in areas outside the regime's control are able to participate in athletic competitions thanks to civil society sectors of the Syrian revolution.
“We are now in the second week of the first- and second-division [soccer] competitions. All the teams are wearing the flag of the Syrian revolution on their shirts and playing under the name of the Syrian Football [Soccer] Federation," said Nader al-Atrash, federation vice president.
"Despite the intense overflights by the Syrian regime and Russia in the skies of Idlib on most days, athletes are determined and adamant to keep going and complete the competitions. I wish them all the safety in the stadiums," Atrash said.
The General Commission for Youth and Sports, a nongovernmental organization opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began its work in Syria in March 2014 and organizes sports activities, competitions and festivals throughout Syrian areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an anti-regime faction. Some of these areas include the Waer neighborhood in Homs, the eastern Ghouta in Rif Dimashq, Daraa province, Idlib province and northwestern Aleppo province.
The commission, which includes the Union for People with Disabilities, sponsors competitions in soccer, swimming, handball, backgammon, swimming, volleyball, judo, karate, wrestling, Lao Chi kung fu and kickboxing. Its teams have received medals in numerous competitions.
“When you see a field, a crowd, billboards and advertisements on the pitch, two teams in different uniforms and a team of referees arbitrating the match, you feel life has returned to the liberated areas, despite the heavy bombing and massacres committed by the Syrian regime in areas outside its control," said Abdul Wahab Almkhozom, a soccer player and member of the executive sports committee for Idlib province.
“The crowd's cheers for their teams reminded us of the old days when we would encourage our teams through the stands in the stadiums, which the Assad regime has turned into military barracks and artillery-fire bases that have nothing to do with life, sport and morals.” '