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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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Young footballers from Gaza arrive in Cork for Mardyke Arena game

The Gaza football academy struggles due to a lack of facilities, equipment and safe places to play.

Palestinian footballers tour Members of Gaza Action Ireland and children from Al-Helal Football Academy in Gaza on Sandymount Strand in Dublin as part of a nine-day trip around the country. Source: Niall Carson via PA Images

A FOOTBALL TEAM from Palestine are in the middle of a nine-day tour of Ireland – and their next stop is the Mardyke Arena in Cork where they will face local team Castleview AFC.

The visit is organised by Gaza Action Ireland as part of a respite programme that gives children time away from the region’s hostilities.

Tensions between Israel and Palestine are particularly high at the moment after gunmen opened fire on Israeli officers in a holy site in Jerusalem (known as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jewish people).

Noelette Noonan and Arthur Leahy who are involved in the organisation describe the football trip as ‘a real break from the harsh realities of life in Gaza’.

Palestinian footballers tour The Al Helal Football Academy in Gaza began their trip to Ireland with a bit of football on Sandymount Strand. Source: Niall Carson via PA Images

Travel is sharply restricted for Palestinians in Gaza: few of the children have ever been able to leave the tiny strip of territory.

Last year, the organisation said it had difficulties getting all the Gaza team members across to Ireland after visas for one footballer and five adults were rejected by Israeli authorities, according to the group’s website.

This year’s team of 19 boys (aged between 12 and 15) landed in Dublin on Saturday. They began their stay in Ireland with a friendly session with former Ireland manager Brian Kerr who co-founded Gaza Action Ireland (GAI).

Palestinian footballers tour Brian Kerr takes part in a training session with children from Al-Helal Football Academy in Gaza on Sandymount Strand. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

By the end of their tour, the boys will have played matches in Dublin, Leitrim, Galway, Cork and Limerick.

Kick-off is at 3pm today.

Read: Warm welcome for children from Gaza ahead of football tour around Ireland

Read: South Dublin County Council to fly Palestinian flag for a month as ‘message of solidarity’

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