Video: Footballer shot in both knees tells Messi to cancel Israel match

Palestinian football player Muhammad Khalil Obeid is urging the Argentinian national football team to cancel their “friendly match” in Israel scheduled for 9 June.

In the video above, Obeid appeals directly to team captain Lionel Messi, “because he is very popular in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli snipers shot Obeid in both of his knees during rallies near the Gaza-Israel boundary on 30 March, ending a promising football career.

The video above also includes graphic footage – filmed by Obeid himself – of the moment he was shot by Israeli snipers.

“I was peacefully participating in the demonstration. I was taking a selfie to remember the march. I was directly targeted by occupation snipers,” Obeid says. “I was shot in my right and left legs and my knee cap area had to be removed.”

Since the beginning of the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip, Israel has killed more than 100 Palestinians and injured thousands more.

Doctors and human rights groups have documented how Israel is using fragmenting ammunition that causes “horrific injuries” and is likely to leave hundreds of people with permanent disabilities.

At least 27 of those injured by late April were competitive athletes, according to Gaza’s youth and sports ministry.

“Stand in solidarity”

Obeid urges Messi and his national team “to stand in solidarity with Palestinians and to boycott the scheduled game with Israel, which is occupying our land.”

Messi is most known as the star player for Barcelona and is a hero to many Palestinians.

A few years ago, this video of a Palestinian child deftly escaping the clutches of four Israeli soldiers became wildly popular on social media after someone added a commentary track to it as if the child were Messi skilfully weaving a football around opposing players to score a legendary goal:

The planned match in Jerusalem is part of Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations in the city, which also marks 70 years since the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians before and after Israel’s creation.

The match would be “taking place while Israel implements a criminal shoot-to-kill-or-maim policy against peaceful Palestinian protesters in Gaza,” PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, stated.

Describing it as a “friendly game” whitewashes Israel’s crimes and is extremely “unfriendly” to human rights, PACBI added.

Palestinians are hoping that Messi will be moved to follow the lead of numerous celebrities and artists – including Gilberto Gil and Shakira – who have heeded their boycott calls in recent weeks.

Activists are using the hashtag #NothingFriendly to boost their appeals to Argentina team to pull out of the match.

Shooting athletes

Tickets for the scheduled match sold out within 20 minutes, The Times of Israel reported, with Israeli soldiers receiving a discounted rate.

Some of those attending may therefore include the soldiers who shot Obeid and other athletes in Gaza.

Palestinian football player Muhammad Khalil Obeid shot in both legs by Israeli occupation forces during Great March of Return protests, at his home in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, 24 April. 

Mahmoud Khattab APA images

Obeid, 23, has played for Gaza’s al-Salah club since he was 17. He also finished first in a Gaza marathon last year.

But now he requires major surgery unavailable in Gaza to have any chance of resuming the game he loves.

“I dream of playing in Europe, I will not kill my dream,” he told The Electronic Intifada earlier this month.

“And I will not let the Israeli occupation kill my dream.”

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.