Currently, players are training for qualifying matches hosted by Iran and if the team succeeds, they will go on to Amputee Football World Cup, slated to be held in Turkey in late 2022.

Palestinian team trains in the isolated Gaza enclave, whose two million residents have been placed under a harsh Israeli blockade since 2007.
Palestinian team trains in the isolated Gaza enclave, whose two million residents have been placed under a harsh Israeli blockade since 2007. (AFP)

Players in besieged Gaza have used crutches and prosthetic legs to stretch, run and dribble as part of the first-ever Palestinian national team that hopes to qualify for the Amputee Football World Cup.

The team trained on Thursday at the Palestine Stadium in the Palestinian enclave under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The 20 players on the team were selected from among five Gaza clubs for players who lost limbs.

Player Hassan Abu Kareem, 38, said his leg was amputated after he was wounded in an Israeli raid on Al Maghazi refugee camp in 2006.

"From the moment of injury, my life has not changed," he told the AFP news agency.

"I continued with my ambition and great goal in life, and my goal is to represent Palestine and to make an achievement for myself in the field of sports."

READ MORE: Gaza holds football tournament for amputees

Amputee Football World Cup in Turkey

Red Cross spokeswoman Suhair Zakkout said the players were setting a new Palestinian standard after the first local team began in 2019 with several players.

"Today, these players make history by forming the first national football team for amputees," she said.

Zakkout said the players were training for qualifying matches to be held in March 2022 in Iran. 

If the team succeeds, they will go on to the Amputee Football World Cup, slated to be held in Turkey in late 2022.

Fuad Abu Ghaliun, chairman of the Palestine Amputee Football Association, said his group applied to join the World Amputee Football Federation in 2019. Their candidacy was accepted earlier this year.

Coach Simon Baker, himself an amputee, said he was working with players "in a way where people see the football being played, and not the person with a disability."

"We want people to respect the players and see them for Ahmed or whoever it is and not see them as somebody broken. We want to make heroes of these players," said Baker, who founded the Irish Amputee Football Association.

Wounds inflicted by Israel

The Palestinian team is in the isolated Gaza enclave, whose two million residents have been locked under a harsh Israeli blockade since Hamas took over in 2007.

Ahmed Abu Nar, 34, used crutches and said he was wounded in 2018 by Israeli forces who suppressed Gaza protests known as the "Great March of Return".

"Before the injury, I was one person, and after the injury, I became someone else," he told AFP.

"A new life began, new goals began and new ambitions and new challenges, and now I am achieving my goals."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies