Although the Palestinian soccer team missed an opportunity to compete in the Bayhill Premier Cup in Belhar, the Khanyounis FC will still be participating in a friendly match with the Bayhill Team at Erica Park at 11am on Monday.
The Cape Town International Airport was adorned in Palestinian colours and song on Sunday afternoon as the u19 Khanyounis team from the Gaza Strip arrived on South African soil for the first time. With surprised and happy expressions; they were embraced by young and old from several Palestinian supporters, members of the Al-Quds Foundation and Muslim Judicial Council and more.
The 18-member team, some of whom are university students, are accompanied by seven administrators. A member of the Palestinian delegation Dr Saeed Alnamrut said it is a remarkable experience for the youth.
“They are very, very excited. It is their first time coming out of the country. They are excited and well-trained. We hope they will spend a very fruitful and enjoyable time here in South Africa, Cape Town.”
A statement by the Royal House of Mandela, Mvezo Komkhulu, described their arrival as a symbol of South Africa’s love and commitment to the just struggle of the Palestinian people and of the unification sport can bring.
“They are here to not only enjoy the game of football and participate in the Bayhill Premier Cup. Their presence here reminds us that our struggle is far from over and that we must continue to seek ways and means to fulfill Madiba’s words uttered on his visit to Gaza in 1995 that “our freedom is yet incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.”
The house called on the community to come out in support “so that they may take a powerful message back to Gaza and the entire occupied Palestine: South Africa is your second home and that ordinary South Africans the children and grandchildren of President Nelson Mandela will stand side by side with you until Palestine is free!”
The statement emphasised that South Africa must continue to advocate for the Palestinian people as we enjoy freedom, post-apartheid.
“Now that we enjoy freedom we shall continue to advocate in every sphere the importance of building ties of sport, culture, trade and brotherhood with the people of Palestine. In the same vein we have a duty to intensify the boycott, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel and its illegal occupation.”
Alnamrut noted however that it had been a complicated process.
“The process started very early when we got the invitation from the organisers of the Premier cup. We needed to create the passport for the (youth who are) under 18, it’s a process because it is not established on the Gaza strip. We needed to send all the documents to the West Bank through the Israeli cross border areas and they (had) to wait. Then there was the issue of the visa from the South African embassy in Ramallah. Then it was even more (formalities).”
The team’s media liaison Noore Nacerodien also highlighted that next time they will work smarter.
“We are thrilled that they arrived and are fully understand what they’ve gone through. We’ve also learnt what to do in the future. They were five weeks on the road. Now we know to finalise team in advance, so that the documentation can be sorted out quicker.”
Alnamarut sent special thanks to the South African ambassador Dr Ashraf Suleiman for his full support for this mission and give orders to get those documents as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the organisers have said that they welcome support and urge everyone to enjoy the activities taking pace at the sport field. They will participate in the friendly leading up to the finals between Mamelodi Sundowns and Hylands Park at 3pm.