Game 4 ended with a score of 25-17 for the Jam’eya Al-Islamiya. This was the final game of the season between the Hamas affiliated team and its archrival Nadi Khadamat Jabalya, a team that is considered a Fatah club. The game was held at the Yousef A-Najjar Stadium in Khan Younis. For a long time the Jabalya team was the unrivaled victor, but lately the team had been plagued with problems between its players and the club’s owners and managers. The aged captain who was also their trainer should have been retired by now, but was not willing to hand over the helm of the team.
The first game was an easy win for the Fatah team and passed without incident. The stadium was guarded by eight or nine policemen in riot gear who seemed to be enjoying their easier than usual posting. The Jabalya club had a loud and rowdy bunch of fans who spurred the team on early in the game. The second game was much more intense and ended in a 29-27 surprise victory for Hamas.
Yaser, one of the Jabalya fans started talking to me. He told me his uncle was the head of the Presidential Guard, a Fatah security apparatus. Yaser is 19 and doesn’t want to go to university, he is already a soldier. “Your party will provide everything you need,” Yaser explained to me. What could a university education give him? In exchange for his services a political party will promise him security, an income and support in times of emergency.
The game went on.
Suddenly the score was 2-1 with Jama’eya Al-Islamiya in the lead. In the fourth and final game the Jabalya captain was knocked in the knee. He claimed he had been purposefully targeted. An argument broke out between him and the referees. The police got into their riot gear and called reinforcements, the fans tried to storm the field and were held back by the suddenly alert officers. The Fatah captain and his assistant coaches were yelling and arguing, a fight between two players almost broke out and the fans were ready for a battle. Somehow, the game went on in the background; focus had been lost.
No one seemed to notice the players anymore.
With the game barely the focus of the day’s event, Hamas walked away with the victory. The Jabalya team was shattered and still bitter over their injured captain; the players managed to greet one another without further incident. The Hamas team, the referees and some of the others gathered on the court for evening prayers.
Another victory for Hamas.