The Young Palestinian Gaza Footballer Who Became a Star

Mohamed Zaki honored in Gaza upon returning from Norway with the 'Norway Cup'. (Photo: Youth Stars Center.)

‘Palestinian youth are capable of doing the seemingly impossible when they receive proper, unconditional support and encouragement.’

Mohamed Zaki Al-Baiuk was excited about his trip to Tunisia as a member of the Youth Stars Center.

Mohamed, 13, and his teammates hail mostly from southern Gaza, and particularly from one of the poorest and most neglected areas in the south.

They were ready to leave the besieged Strip for the first time in their young lives. But the dream died quickly as their application to travel was denied.

The siege seemed unready to end, even for a single month for the young football team. But for Mohamed, the unexpected happened.

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Youth Stars Center

The promising footballer is a member of the Youth Stars Center football team.

The center is a small but critical project run by volunteers.

It is dedicated to serving an impoverished area located between Khan Younis and Rafah in southern Gaza, known as Qizan Abu Rashwan.

In recent years, the center established a football team for young kids, and eventually two, partly funded by personal financial gifts provided by the editors at the Palestine Chronicle news network.

Mohamed Zaki, left, with another player in the Youth Stars Center. The football club is sponsored by Palestine Chronicle editors.

The idea, then, was simply to give children a healthy way to interact, work as a community and recover from the horrors of Israeli wars in Gaza.

With time, however, the teams improved beyond expectations, and several protégés quickly emerged.

One is Mohamed Zaki.

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The Norway Cup

Though deeply disappointed by the cancellation of the Tunisia trip, Mohamed’s family received a call from the Palestine national team.

He was selected to join the Palestinian youth team that was scheduled to participate in the prestigious Norway Cup – an annual football competition for children.

Mohamed did more than participate. He scored five goals and had ten assists, taking his team to the final game.

Some of Mohamed’s goals proved most decisive in winning critical matches.

Mohamed and his team returned to Gaza with a precious title, and much hope for his mates at the Youth Stars Center, in fact for all young Palestinian athletes.

Upon his return, Mohamed was recognized for winning the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award.

His whole family, friends, and teammates were present at the special ceremony.

‘Our Star’ 

“I am very proud of Mohammed, one of the stars of our center,” Ahmed Laham, the director of the center told the Palestine Chronicle.

“Though he, along with all the other kids were heartbroken for not being able to travel to the Tunisia tournment, he still represented his peers in Norway, and did us all proud.”

“In the name of the center and all the volunteers, I would like to thank everyone who stood by us and supported us, starting with the Palestine Chronicle, which is invested in creating healthy spaces for the youth of our communities.”

“We are also very proud of Mohamed, his team, and all the volunteers at the Youth Stars Center,” Ramzy Barouud, editor of the Palestine Chronicle said.

“In fact, we are grateful to him and his peers, as they continue to teach us how to be strong and resilient, and how to use every opportunity to serve as an ambassador for Palestine anywhere in the world,” he added.

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“This also demonstrates that Palestinians are capable of doing the seemingly impossible when they receive proper, unconditional support and encouragement.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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