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Humans of Gaza: Mohammed Barakat, Palestine's iconic footballer and centurion

By Humaira Ahad

On the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, Mohammed Barakat was preparing for the pre-dawn meal when an Israeli airstrike pounded his home, killing the ace Palestinian footballer.

The Barakat family home in the city of Khan Younis was bombed by the regime forces in the wee hours of Monday morning, massacring several members of the family, including Mohammed.

The iconic player who represented Palestine’s national football team started his career in 2015 and instantly captured the imagination of the Palestinian football fraternity with his talent and passion.

Within no time, Barakat became a household name in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, with many football enthusiasts idolizing him and hailing him as “the legend of Khan Younis”.

The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) paid glowing tribute to the slain soccer player.

“On the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, the occupation’s bombing killed the star of our national soccer team, Muhammad Barakat,” the association said in a statement on Tuesday, mourning Baraket's tragic death.

“The deadly airstrike by Israel targeted him in Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, resulting in his martyrdom,” the statement added.

Besides the national side, the 39-year-old also played for the Khan Younis Youth Club, serving as the team’s striker and captain. 

Barakat was one of Palestine’s top goal-scorers who made his mark internationally.

The striker became the first player in the besieged strip to score 100 goals for a single team. During his career, which spanned over 9 years, his overall goal tally reached 114.

The footballer from Gaza played for various soccer clubs, including the Ahli Gaza Football Club, the Jordanian club Al-Wehdat, and the Saudi Arabian club Al-Shoala.

"The Palestinian sports movement continues to bid farewell to its sons and cadres, as a result of long decades of injustice and occupation, from which no components and sectors of life in Palestine were spared," the PFA said in a statement.

Many netizens took to X to express shock over the killing of the Palestinian soccer star.

Questioning the silence of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), Mick Wallace, a member of the European Parliament, called for a ban on Israeli football teams.

“Are UEFA ok with the apartheid Israeli regime murdering Palestinian footballer Muhammad Barakat…? Will UEFA continue to allow Israeli football teams to compete…? They threw out Russia, what does the brutal Israeli regime have to do…? UEFA are being badly exposed,” he wrote.

Terrence Daniels, an Air Force veteran from New Zealand, also tweeted about his killing.

“Israeli war criminal’s snipers killed Muhammad Barakat, the star player of the Palestinian national football team and the Khan Younis club, in the city of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, today, Monday.”

Declan Tuite, a social media user, also asked the global football governing body FIFA to impose a ban on teams affiliated with the Tel Aviv regime.

“FIFA must take action and condemn is hell for the cold-blooded murder of Muhammad Barakat & have them banned from all international football & stand in solidarity with Palestinian people and the billions of people around the world who also stand with the Palestinian people.”

According to the PFA, the number of Palestinian athletes killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since October 7 has risen to 157, with 90 of them football players.

Ace footballer Hani Al-Masdar, who was the manager of the Palestinian Olympic team, was killed in January as a result of an airstrike that targeted his home in central Gaza.   

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