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Football is one of Libya's most popular sports.
Football is one of Libya's most popular sports.
Image: Ben Curtis/AP/Press Association Images

Top Libyan footballers defect to rebels: report

Some of the country’s top footballers are reported to have switched sides, a key propaganda blow to Colonel Gaddafi.
Jun 25th 2011, 11:07 AM 271 7

A GROUP OF top Libyan footballers have defected to the rebel side, following on the heels of military officers as the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi struggles on.

BBC News reports that the group of 17 footballers includes the country’s goalkeeper Juma Gtat, three national  team members, and the coach of Tripoli’s top club Al-Ahly, Abdel bin Issa.

Speaking to the BBC, Gtat explained the reasons behind his decision:

I am telling Col Gaddafi to leave us alone and allow us to create a free Libya.

In fact I wish he would leave this life altogether.

In a football mad country like Libya, the defections will be seen as a big propaganda blow to Colonel Gaddafi. The defecting sports stars have now moved into the rebel-held Nafusa mountains.

The Telegraph reports that the rebels have managed to seize most of the high ground in the Western Mountains but troops loyal to Gaddafi hold much of the terrain below.

The rebel stronghold is in the east of the country where the National Transitional Council is based in Benghazi. But the rebels’ failure so far to make inroads in to Gaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli has led to the current stalemate.

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Hugh O'Connell

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