West Aleppo soccer training eases ‘painful reality’ on the ground

A month-long soccer course in rebel-held west Aleppo is helping young men, including off-duty FSA fighters, forget their “painful reality” even if only temporarily, a pro-opposition journalist who covered the graduating teams’ match over the weekend, told Syria Direct on Monday.

The teams have “hardly any funding, but it’s through games like these that we’re able to escape a frankly painful reality,” a journalist who asked to be identified as Abu Hamza told Syria Direct.

“The participants are from all over–some are civilians, others are regime defectors or off-duty Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters,” he explained.

Although soccer is the city’s the most popular sport, residents “hope to open up clubs for other sports too, such as wrestling, karate and ping pong,” Mohammed Sheikh, a member of Aleppo’s rebel-organized General Sports Union, told Syria Direct on Monday.

“We’ve only got one journalist covering our events, funding’s so tight, but we hope to one day get a little more outside recognition,” he added.

“We'll keep playing sports despite the bombing, the barrels,” one of the organizers told Halab Today on Saturday.

The Aleppo’s General Sports Union dedicated the month-long soccer training to the memory of Mohammed Aqil, a late commander with the Aleppo-based Fastaqim Kama Umirt, an FSA-affiliated brigade.

 

Moutasem Jamal

Moutasem Jamal studied English literature. He moved to Jordan after losing his job because of violence in his area.

Joseph Adams

Joseph was a 2013-2014 Boren Fellow in Arabic based in Amman, Jordan and is the founder of Open Syria. He holds BA and MS degrees in political science from UCLA and MIT, and is an MA degree candidate in Arabic at Middlebury College.