Football in the time of war

Football in the time of war

A few days ago, people in Syria were subject to another brutality — a chemical attack that killed over 100 people. For many of us, this was another occasion to curse the world, but for Mahmoud Al Amnah, it is totally different.

Al Amnah is from Aleppo, the epicentre of the conflict in Syria, but plays football in India for Aizawl FC, the current leaders in the I-League. His brother and sister still stay in the war-ravaged city. For the midfielder, it is about living through pain, every moment.

“It’s not easy. I have left everything to God,” says Al Amnah, who will be turning out for his club against Bengaluru FC in the I-League at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday. Al Amnah moved to Egypt with his Egyptian wi­fe and parents in 2011, just before the war broke out, but his mind is tuned to the distu­rb­ing news coming from Aleppo.

“My brother works in a supermarket. We live in fear. Just don’t know what will happen to them tomorrow,” he says.

“I talk to them every time it’s possible. Sometimes when I speak they say there’s no electricity, sometimes I hear bombs explode in the background. It’s really frightening. Everything is destroyed and you can’t even do anything about it. You have to carry on doing your stuff. Life has to go on.”

It’s a shame that when Aleppo is discussed today, it revolves around the war, explosions and such destructive activities. But ask Al Amnah and he will give you a different take. “It’s sad that when someone says Aleppo, the first thing that hits everyone’s mind is the war,” he states.

“But believe me, it’s a beautiful city. A big one too. Maybe not like the big cities here but it’s the second most important city in Syria after Damascus. A major business centre too. Inshallah, I’ll go back home one day.”

Even during such a traumatic period if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in Syria, it is their love for football. “Oh, it’s big, really big,” says Al Amnah with pride. “Every time a big team like Al-Ittihad or Al-Jaish play, we have a full house.”

This love is also reflected in the Syrian national team’s performance as they are close on the heels of Uzbekistan in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, still in with a chance to qualify. And Al Amnah hopes the side can bring some joy to the country soon.

“They have been playing well in the qualifiers and they have some good young players. A lot of them are playing outside Syria, but I think it’s fine. I hope they go through. That will be really good for my country.”

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