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Ramadan soccer league brings a bit of joy to Gaza refugee camp

RAFAH, Gaza Strip : Soccer fans in the Gaza Strip gather to watch the specially organised Ramadan Popular League, a competition held every year in the Rafah refugee camp which is home to over 120,000 people in the southern part of the coastal enclave.

“Every year during Ramadan month we come to watch this league, it brings us joy and happiness,” said Issa Shaloula.

“It is better than other fields which we can’t get to or that are far away,” the 50-year-old told Reuters over the noise of cheering supporters.

Palestinians have separate leagues in Gaza and the West Bank following internal rifts from a 2007 civil war between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah’s faction, which holds sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and that of rival Hamas Islamists which runs the coastal enclave.

They have a national team which takes part in international tournaments, but lack modern stadiums and the financial means to improve standards in the sport. Palestinians also say Israel restricts the movement of athletes between the two areas.

“As players of clubs we come to these popular fields to please the crowds,” said Ahmed El-Loulahy, who plays for Khadamat Rafah Club.

“This ground is more popular than many other stadiums, it is a playground for refugees. We played here as children,” Loulahy added.

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