Mine survivors take on UNIFIL peacekeepers in football

The players from LWAH in a group photo with the MRE coordinators, the Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC), supported by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Lebanon and UNIFIL.

About 200 children from south Lebanon attended a UN-backed Mine Risk Education (MRE) event in Suwwana village.

This Mine Risk Education (MRE) event was coordinated by the Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) and supported by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Lebanon and UNIFIL.

Despite their injuries the mine survivors are able to participate in the football match. 

The team of mine survivors play football against a team of UNIFIL Indonesian peacekeepers.

Some of the mine survivor players take a break during the football competition. 

The mine survivors team has been supported by the Lebanese Welfare Association for the Disabled (LWAH) for more than 10 years. 

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5 Oct 2017

Mine survivors take on UNIFIL peacekeepers in football

Late on Friday afternoon in Suwwana village, south east Lebanon, the football coach calls his team together for a pre-match tactical discussion. A couple of players who are sitting on the sidelines pick up their prosthetic limbs and attach them before jogging over to the huddle. This team of mine survivors are playing a group of UNIFIL peacekeepers from Indonesia. As the players lean in to listen to their coach there is a sense of anticipation. When the whistle blows, the crowd cheers and the players are no longer mine survivors or peacekeepers, they are all footballers.
During a break in the game, Ibrahim Ali Nemeh from the Lebanese Association for the Care of the Disabled (LWAH) explains how he got his injury: “I was working for the Council of the South in the installation of poles for the electricity network. We were in the outskirts of a town called Qalaway when we hit a landmine, and as a result my leg was amputated.”  He looks at the groups of children cheering the game and says, “I urge the children not to approach minefields and not to touch any strange object, because such an injury really impacts one’s life and family.”
The players from LWAH are participating in this match as part of a Mine Risk Education (MRE) awareness day coordinated by the Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) and supported by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Lebanon and UNIFIL.
200 Children between the ages of 4 and 15 years are here and their enthusiastic cheering motivates the players. Today’s outreach event is clearly linked to a core aspect of UNIFIL’s mandate: “Protection of Civilians”. The occasion opened with MRE presentations about the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance, with each child receiving an interactive board game to take home. There were also demonstrations of how minefields are detected using dogs and robots, and how the land has to be carefully and painstakingly cleared because these devices are so dangerous.
“The area of operations of UNIFIL is polluted by explosive remnants of war, cluster bombs and mines,” explains Henri-Francois Morand, UNMAS Lebanon Programme Manager. “So we need to work on a safer environment for the population. You see lots of kids around today; we need to raise their awareness by speaking about this threat. And at the same time we bring them around the football pitch where people enjoy doing sports, with people who have been injured by mines. This shows them first of all you need to be aware, but at the same time you need to be strong in your life.”
As the mine survivors team scores a third goal to the delight of the crowd, Mohamad Abu Jahjah from UNIFIL smiles saying, “Football is a universal language that has brought people together, those with disabilities, survivors of landmines, UNIFIL peacekeepers and young people from Suwwana. It is a good day, one that shows the love for the sport and tells everyone the team of landmine survivors might not have feet to play football, but they are playing the game with their hearts because this is a sport they love.”
As the final whistle blows signaling a four goal draw, the crowd cheers and the teams of peacekeepers and mine survivors congratulate each other. Hassan Abboud from LWAH concludes, “We are proving to people that we are very capable. Even if our legs are amputated we are showing that we exist even if in a different way. This is a march of life.”
UNMAS Lebanon and UNIFIL support the Lebanon Mine Action Centre (LMAC) in providing mine risk education to young people across south Lebanon, highlighting the dangers of mines and explosive remnants of war and teaching them how to stay safe in such environments.
The LWAH Mine Survivors team has been supported by the Lebanese Welfare Association for the Disabled for more than 10 years.

Article: Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Video camera: Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Edit: Suzane Badereddine
Motion Graphics: Zeina Ezzeddine
Photo: Pascual Gorriz