Palestinian Kids Get A Sporting Chance In Tipperary

Children from the Al-Helal club in the besieged Gaza strip are in Ireland and enjoying a 10-day visit of fun and football.

The footballers, aged from 10 to 14 years old, are staying and playing in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, as well as in Maynooth, Dublin, Limerick, Kinvara and Wexford over the coming days.

“We couldn’t be more delighted to have these lovely children finally here to see us,” Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) coordinator Zoë Lawlor said.

“The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, living as they do under siege, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by lack of facilities, equipment, places to play and restrictions on their movement. This visit to Ireland will provide a wonderful chance for them to meet other children, experience a new culture and to tell their stories — we have a lot to learn from them,” she added.

The following public events are scheduled for the children:

Saturday, July 30th: Football on Sandymount Strand, Dublin, at 4pm, followed by a barbeque at a nearby home

Sunday, July 31th: Family Fun Day, Ballybrack FC, south county Dublin, 11am to 4pm

Monday, August 1st: visit to North Tipperary Agricultural Show, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, 3.30pm; folllowed by welcome party in Nenagh, Banba Square, 6pm

Tuesday, August 2nd: visit to Wexford, including football with Wexford Youths and greeting from Wexford Council of Trade Unions, 11am to 4pm

Wednesday, August 3rd: activities in Tipperary, including visit to Cloughjordan eco-village, and hurling lessons!

Thursday, August 4th: evening football in Kinvara, Co Galway

Friday, August 5th, to Sunday, August 7th: visits and football matches in and around Nenagh and Limerick

The long effort of fundraising and red tape to bring the children to Ireland was launched by former Ireland manager Brian Kerr in 2014, along with former rugby international Trevor Hogan. (See this national newspaper coverage from the time.)

Hogan and Lawlor have led the GAI team that organised ‘Gaza Kids to Ireland’ – having first met many of them on a visit to Gaza in 2013. Al-Helal’s clubhouse and facilities in northern Gaza were damaged by Israeli bombing in 2012 and again in 2014.

“As well as giving the kids a much needed break from stress and conflict, it is a great opportunity for the people of Ireland to participate and support them,” Lawlor said.

There are 14 children visiting from Gaza, joined in Ireland by two of their adult coaches and carers.

The population of Gaza, now approaching two million people, lives under an illegal blockade imposed by Israel, and these children have already lived through three wars on their territory. Donations to aid the visit can be made at http://gazaactionireland.weebly.com/donate.html

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