Premier League stars in charity match for Gaza children

Selection of former high-profile players will also turn out in the game in London organised by a Muslim sports charity

Anwar El Ghazi is championing one of the teams in next month's benefit match in London for beleaguered children in Gaza. Getty Images
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Football stars past and present including Premier League players and internationals are to line up for a special match in London to raise money for the children of Gaza.

The match is being organised by Nujum Sports, a charity which supports Muslim sports people at all levels, and championed by former Premier League footballer Anwar El Ghazi, who played for Aston Villa.

The Anwar El Ghazi XI v Nujum Sports XI kicks off at 3pm at The Hive, a sports complex in north London, on June 3.

Donny van de Beek of Manchester United, Hamza Choudary, who plays for Leicester City, Fulham’s Adama Traore and Iraq international Zidane Iqbal, of FC Utrecht, are down to play for El Ghazi’s team.

Facing them will be a side featuring former Liverpool striker and England international Emile Heskey. They will be captained by Ipswich Town’s Sam Morsy, an Egypt international, and also feature Algerian national team players Rais M'Bolhi and Adlene Guedioura.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry, of the 35,600-plus people killed in the Gaza war, more than 14,500 were children.

“All children need to be protected and cared for, no matter their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or faith,” said Ebadur Rahman, chief executive and founder of Nujum Sports.

“Our duty of care goes beyond borders and we must act now to make sure our response is genuine, impactful and urgent.

“Nujum Sports thanks all our athletes who are currently playing professional football and coming out of retirement to add their ‘boots’ to this amazing endeavour.”

Mr Rahman said a “special thank you goes out to Anwar El Ghazi for championing this initiative and for his courage in speaking out against injustice and advocating for all Palestinian children”.

El Ghazi’s contract with German club Mainz was terminated after the Dutch winger's social media posts in connection with the Israel-Gaza war.

The 29 year old was suspended in October following an earlier comment about the conflict but had been cleared to return to training  after showing remorse, the club said at the time.

But after posting another statement, the club again ended his contract. El Ghazi said he had "no regrets or remorse" regarding his position and "the loss of my livelihood is nothing when compared to the hell being unleashed on innocent and vulnerable in Gaza".

Galatasary’s Halil Dervisoglu, Amadou Bakayoko of Forest Green Rovers and PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Boy Waterman are among current players from outside the English game taking part.

Former Premier League stars and Bacary Sagna, once of Arsenal and Manchester City, and Khalid Boulahrouz, formerly of Chelsea. will line up on opposite teams.

Among Nujum’s roles is serving as an advisory voice for football clubs in regard to the physical and emotional welfare of Muslim players.

The organisation sends questionnaires to clubs and offers guidance on topics such as how to provide prayer rooms for Muslim players, as well as consideration for academy players living with host families.

Ramadan fasting – one of the five pillars of Islam – has clear implications for Muslim players, match officials and club staff, particularly on evening games when the fast can end during the match.

During this year's holy month, Nujum Sports sent packs containing a travel prayer mat, prayer beads, Zamzam water and attar perfume to all Muslim players in England's top four football leagues.

Updated: May 21, 2024, 2:07 PM