Gaza Strip, 10 April 2019 - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Japan, in partnership with the Palestinian Football Association, celebrated the closing of the Tokyo Football League III with the final match between Shabab Al Khaleel and Khan Younis at Rafah Stadium. For the first time, this national competition brought teams together from the West Bank and Gaza to play the final match on Gazan soil.
Mr Ibrahim Abu Saleem, Deputy Chairman of Palestinian Football Association, thanked the Government of Japan and UNDP for supporting Tokyo League, “Tokyo League has been ongoing for three years now and has given a chance to Palestinian players in Gaza and West Bank to practice their favourite sport. For the first time we are having a team from the West Bank competing in Gaza which enhances the notion of unity and competition”. Mr Abu Saleem concluded by saying “We hope the Tokyo League will be part of our national leagues that occur annually”.
The Tokyo Football League III is part of the Government of Japan and UNDP’s shared commitment to empower Palestinian youth through the Tamkeen 2 - Emergency Response to Palestinian Youth through Sport Initiative, implemented in partnership with the Palestine Football Association, Palestine Olympic Committee, Al Quds and Al Aqsa Universities. The overall project budget is USD 649,950 and covers both individual and team sports in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
H.E. Takeshi Okubo, Ambassador for the Palestinian Affairs and Representative of Japan to Palestine expressed his gratitude to all the parties involved in making this token of Palestinian unity come true. "What makes this tournament unique is that both the West Bank and Gaza teams are gathered here in Rafah to send a message of resilience and unity to everyone despite the difficult political situation" said Ambassador Okubo. "The Government of Japan is committed to supporting the Palestinian people, especially youth in Gaza, as we all realize that youth are the main pillar for the future of Palestinian Society as well as a cornerstone in building the State of Palestine," he added.
Over the course of a month and a half, 65 teams (16 from the West Bank and 49 from the Gaza Strip) comprising of over 1300 youth, competed for the championship of the Tokyo Football League III. Khan Younis team from Gaza won the final match and received the League Cup; medals were also presented to the players in the second-place team. The Tokyo Football League is organized by the Palestinian Football Association for youth under the age of 19.
Mr Roberto Valent, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator thanked the Government of Japan for their continuous support and highlighted that Palestinian youth, who make up around 29% of the total population, have great potential but they need to be given the space to excel and be productive members of society. “We know that the sports situation is somehow neglected for the favour of economic, social and political situation - although connected - but with the generous funding of the Government of Japan and its people, we have continued the implementation of this initiative for the third year not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank. We are happy to be part of this historic occasion where for the first time we have teams under 19 from the West Bank enter Gaza for a football match,” he added.
The Tokyo League promotes sports as a means of unifying a nation, but most importantly bringing young people together. With 175 football games and over 4500 people participating in Tokyo League games since 2016, the projects continues for the third consecutive year to provide Palestinian youth with something to aim for that can be transformative in the way they and others see life.
It is worth noting that the Government of Japan is considered one of UNDP’s strongest partners, contributing to improving the lives of the Palestinian people. The Government of Japan has provided more than USD 345 million to UNDP/PAPP since 1993 for project implementation in the areas of infrastructure, rubble removal, health, education, agriculture, access to justice, and others.
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Ms Dania Darwish, Communications Specialist, Tel. +972-2-6268229 – e-mail: email@example.com or Shahd El-Swerki in Gaza at Tel. +972-8-2822167 – e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on UNDP/PAPP see http://www.ps.undp.org.
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