Initial concerns about ticket sales evaporated like clouds in the sky, chased away by a light south-easter, as Cape Town soccer fans and those supporting the Palestinian cause, turned up in large numbers at Athlone stadium, on Sunday February 11, for the first of two matches featuring the Palestinian national football team.
Organised by Stepping Stones sports development organisation, in association with Safa Cape Town, Sunday’s inaugural Football 4 Humanity match between the Palestinian national team and a Western Cape X1 had all the hallmarks of a great match – a bumper crowd, top-class soccer and totally unscripted as the result could have gone either way. In the end, the home side walked away 1-0 winners, courtesy of a fine effort by Zizwe United’s Manelise Ralatse.
However, as acclaimed goalkeeper coach, Farouk Abrahams, a member of coach Boebie Solomons techniçal staff, pointed out, the result was of secondary importance as the whole stadium bought into the theme of “Free Palestine” and efforts to bring an end to to the atrocities happening in Gaza.
“We pray for love, peace and justice for all God’ children, he said.
“What a momentous occasion today… great turnout in the stands, entertaining football with the slick Palestinian team dominating scoring chances but couldn’t avoid a 1-0 loss to a solid Western Cape team,” he said.
“Well done to all the role players. It was great to share the bench with some of the best local coaches around. We go again next Sunday, he said.
In the days leading up to Sunday’s historic match, Safa Cape Town president Bennett Bailey called on Capetonians to show their support as ticket sales got off to a slow start.
With more than 17 000 in attendance on Sunday, Bailey is hopeful that the final match against an SA Invitational side will draw an even bigger crowd.
“These tickets are not about a soccer match, he said, ”they are about solidarity with a nation that has suffered death and severe injury totalling 110 000 civilians, they are living through a genocide and the total destruction of their infrastructure with 2 million people internally displaced, with no accommodation, no warm clothes nor blankets in freezing cold.
Sunday’s big match also saw a high-powered government delegation led by SA president Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor as well as Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, turning up at Athlone Stadium.
In his address, President Ramaphosa recalled words once famously said by former president Nelson Mandela, who said: “We know all too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
In reply, Palestinian Football Association president, Jibril Rajoub thanked the SA government for initiating a lawsuit against Israel, saying it’s a message that the Palestinians are not isolated.
- The second and final match will take place at Athlone Stadium on Sunday February 18. Tickets available Ticketpro.