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Egyptian Soccer Star “Raises” Gaza Awareness

February 2008

When Mohamed Aboutreika, a star soccer player for the Egyptian Al-Ahly Pharoahs, lifted his jersey following his team’s victory in the African Nations Cup late last month, it wasn’t just another sports stunt. Under his jersey was a T-shirt that read “Sympathize with Gaza.” For a brief moment, people around the world were reminded, or even alerted to, the plight of residents in Israel-occupied Gaza. (See a photo of Aboutreika here.)

As might be expected, Aboutreika was cited for breaking a no-sloganeering rule instituted by the organization that governs soccer matches in Africa. But the result was an outpouring of support for Aboutreika, who often uses his position as a star player to advance humanitarian causes.

His action came just before Israel received a judicial go-ahead to reduce the amount of electricity it supplies to Gaza as punishment for residents’ breach of a wall separating Gaza from Egypt. Humanitarian organizations had appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to have the cutoff of electricity blocked, but the court sided with Israel. Israel supplies the vast majority of electricity to Gaza, and the cuts are seen as a further deterioration of living conditions in Gaza. Here is a press release from one of Grassroots International’s partners, the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.

This latest move by Israel makes Aboutreika’s show of solidarity even more important. American media outlets, however, have hardly covered the act.

“Tom Brady is more likely to call his new cologne ‘Gaza Mist’ than acknowledge the humanitarian horror show underwritten by his tax dollars,” wrote David Zirin in an article in the Philadelphia Weekly.

Grassroots International is working hard with partners in the Middle East such as the Gaza Community Mental Health Program to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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