Tomorrow night Tallaght welcomes some very special visitors when children from Al Helal Football Academy in Gaza, Palestine attend the Shamrock Rovers v Derry City match.
The 19 children, aged between 10 and 14, arrived in Ireland last Saturday for The Gaza Kids to Ireland project, a tour around the country which has brought them from Dublin to Galway, Cork and Leitrim, playing football, having fun and getting some respite from their traumatic lives and the conflict back home.
The project is organised by Gaza Action Ireland (GAI), a group formed by Irish activists involved in the Irish Ship to Gaza Campaign in 2011, which aims to highlight and help undermine the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The football mad kids will be guests of Shamrock Rovers at tomorrow nights home game against Derry City after a group of Hoops fans got together and formed Gaza Kids To Tallaght, the aim of which was to include a trip a Rovers match on the tour and raise some much needed funds for the kids trip.
InTallaght spoke to Danielle Robinson, one of the fans behind Gaza Kids To Tallaght, to find out more:
“After my involvement with Gaza Kids To Ireland last year I decided I wanted to help in a bigger way this year, and not only get the kids up to Tallaght, but fundraise.
“It costs over 40k to bring the kids here, and we wanted to do our bit.
“We are four Shamrock Rovers fans, myself, Chris Andrew, Gary Roberts and Sean Mc Laughlin.
“We got together and made it happen.
“The fans themselves have dug deep and since our LIVE Facebook video of the kids arriving last Saturday went viral, we’ve been receiving donations from all over the world
“Comments from people worldwide saying how much they “love Ireland and its people.”
The Israel-Gaza war in 2014 had a horrific effect on the children of Gaza, over 500 were killed, 3,374 were injured nearly a third of whom suffer permanent disability and more than 1,500 were orphaned. Hundreds of thousands were left in trauma which continues to this day.
During the conflict, 258 schools and kindergartens were damaged, including 26 schools that are beyond repair. Seven health facilities were destroyed and 67 hospitals and clinics were damaged.
Three years on and Gaza’s children continue to suffer due largely to an economic blockade by Israel that has now lasted a decade.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over the years Israel has even included footballs on the list of banned items along with wheelchairs, livestock, cement, dry food items, crayons, stationery, and musical instruments.
Danielle wants to let local businesses know how they can play their part in giving these very worthy children an experience they’ll never forget.
“For €150 local Tallaght businesses can avail of a corporate sponsorship for Fridays nights game against Derry.
“The €150 goes towards the kids expenses.
“Sponsors get 2 tickets to the game, attend a reception pre-match in the 1899 suite, they get to meet the player they sponsored and get a professional picture taken.
“Along with their logo and business details on all our social media (our Facebook page has over 1000) likes and growing daily.
“Any corporate enquires please contact me Danielle Robinson at 0876394365
“Anyone who wants to donate can by visiting www.ifundraise.ie/gazakidstotallaght right up until Midnight Sunday 6th of August, the day the kids go home.”
Gaza Action Ireland say this trip to Ireland gives the children a chance to make some positive memories they’ll never forget.
“Israel has made it almost impossible for Gaza’s soccer stars to travel to play for the Palestine national team.
“The social circumstances, exacerbated by the siege have frustrated Al Helal’s efforts to field a girls’ team thus far but they haven’t given up on the project.
“With your help to make this project a reality, a group of Palestinian children will have a new story to tell, one of freedom, friendship, play and solidarity in Ireland.
“We need funding for flights and expenses so please share this event, and spread the word.”