Players of the Palestine national football team have thanked South Africans for supporting their liberation struggle and hosting them for the friendly Football for Humanity game played Sunday in Cape Town.
“Thank you to South Africa, the president and people. We are very happy for the support to Palestine,’’ Mus’ab Al Battat, the team’s captain, told Anadolu in a short interview.
Battat expressed gratitude for the warm hospitality the team received since it landed in the country on Thursday.
Soccer fans, dressed in Palestine solidarity regalia, waved flags and cheered the team as it entered the Athlone stadium in Cape Town for the beginning of the first Football for Humanity game attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa, Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola among other dignitaries.
Chants of “Free Free Palestine, from the river to the sea” could be heard throughout the stadium.
The Palestinian national team played against South Africa’s Western Cape XI invitational team in the solidarity game that ended with the hosts scoring one goal.
The next solidarity match titled the “Freedom Cup” will be held at the same venue on Feb. 18.
In an earlier interview with local broadcaster Newz Room Afrika, Battat prayed for the quick recovery of all injured Palestinians and his country’s liberation.
He thanked the South Africa Football Federation and the government for inviting them for the friendly solidarity game and the warm welcome they received.
Palestinian right midfielder Bashar Al Shobaki also praised the reception and hospitality they received in South Africa.
“It’s a very good match. I enjoyed it. We are in South Africa it’s like Palestine – people here support us a lot,’’ he said.
The 23-year-old player said he likes everything in South Africa, a country that has openly declared its support for the Palestinian liberation.
“They welcomed us very well. Insha’Allah Palestine will be free,’’ he told Anadolu.
The Israeli army has launched attacks on Gaza after an Oct. 7 Hamas attack, which Tel Aviv says killed nearly 1,200 people. More than 28,000 Palestinians, including women and children, have since been killed and over 60,000 others injured, according to Palestinian health authorities.
Israel’s offensive continues despite an International Court of Justice ruling in late January calling for stopping all acts of genocide in Gaza and ensuring access to humanitarian aid in the blockaded enclave.