FAMILY FOOTBALL IN PALESTINE

Palestinian farmer Yousef Abu Hammad, aged 75, has sired enough boys for a football team – literally. He wanted to put his village on the map when he founded a football team there 30 years ago. At the time, the village of Wadi Al Nees was not recognised by the authorities and therefore not connected to the electricity grid or the water network and did not even have a school. “I visited the mayor of Bethlehem,” he explained. “I asked for services. He said: ‘I don’t know where that village is.” Then I showed him the newspaper stories about the football club. We got electricity in 1986, water in 1988 and the school in 1993.” There’s still no pitch, but the plucky team has inspired the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to pay for one. It will be ready in a few months and will make a big difference, said the coach. Wadi Al Nees currently heads the West Bank’s top league, which has 12 teams. Abu Hammad’s six oldest sons – he also has one daughter – initially formed the core of the team. Now it’s his younger six, which includes the captain, midfielders Hassan and Khader, defenders Mohammed and Ghaleb, and Amer as a spare. Three grandsons are also playing, including Hazem, goalkeeper Tawfiq and defender Walid, whose father Omar was once considered the best player in the West Bank. Three cousins and two other relatives round out the formation.