Comprised of multiple cultures, speaking different languages and having no home field, the Palestinian national soccer team and its players must overcome physical, emotional, cultural, and geographical obstacles just to exist. The documentary follows the team as it prepares for a decisive match in its attempt to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
The Palestinian national soccer team consists of players of all different nationalities; there are a few from Chile, one from the United States, from Lebanon, and some from Gaza. Their coach is the Austrian Alfred Riedl. Riedl’s demanding task is to prepare the team in Ismaïlia for the international match against Uzbekistan, which should pave the way to the World Cup. The film follows the team in the weeks leading up to this key game. There are many problems along the way; it is almost impossible for the players from Gaza to travel. Despite an official document that permits them to travel to Egypt, they have to wait for days before being allowed to cross the border. Meanwhile, tensions mount in the training camp. There is a confusion of tongues, as everyone is speaking a different language and the interpreters are not all that competent. It is proving difficult to gear the very different playing styles to one another. The training seems doomed to fail, but the players keep up the morale. After all, this team is more than just a soccer team: it is a way for the Palestinian people to propagate their identity and promote their national identity with pride.
This session is followed by a screen talk with director Maya Sanbar, chaired by Joe Watfa, Director of People, Culture and Operations at Football Beyond BordersAll proceeds from this screening will be donated to Palestine Red Crescent Society, towards their emergency response in Gaza.
This film screening is brought to you with thanks to SOAS Centre for Palestine Studies and SOAS Middle East Institute.