You would think that the sport is on the very last place in minds of Palestinians with all hell they live in. Oh but that’s very incorrect! They will drop everything they are doing to watch they national football (soccer) team and instantly forget all problems. Palestinian sport commentator has described their bid to qualify to World Cup 2006 as “one of our most beautiful dreams.”
Goal Dreams, lovely film directed by Maya Sanbar and Jeffery Saunders is telling us the emotional path of the Palestine national team while its players are gathering from all over the world to play under the same flag and represent their nation on the international stage. It is quite unique story and is showing in very untraditional and very original way Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its effect on the lives of Palestinians.
The team is on the preparation in Ismailiya in Egypt for the crucial match against the national team of Uzbekistan which supposes to be held in 30 days in Qatar (because of obvious reason it can’t be in Palestine). The team’s coach, Austrian Alfred Riedl is having numerous problems.“We are unique in the world; we don’t even have a country! We have to practice here [Ismailiya]… we don’t know what we are, who we are?” said Mr. Riedl but that’s hardly his only problem. Namely 30 days before the match the team is short several players (mostly the ones from Gaza). Players who are there aren’t speak the same language; there is one New Yorker who speaks English only of course; few from Santiago de Chile among them one speaks English; one from Madrid, Sweden, a few from Egypt who speak Arabic; later is coming one from Lebanon who speaks Arabic as well. And there are missing players from Gaza (Arabic). Coach is speaking English (and is cursing in Serbian which was such a huge surprise and the whole audience has burst of laughing. We asked Mr. Saunders who was guest of the festival does he have an explanation but he didn’t) so it was kind of Babylonian Tower in small. Just imagine the final version of coach’s words after passing the process of three translations!
The basic idea with gathering players for the team was their origin. They had to be Palestinians in any (even stretched sense) so many of them were for the first time in the region (not in the land) where their ancestors were born many, many years ago. Naturally all of them were bringing different way of thinking, different mentality, different cultural heritage but also very different style of playing soccer.
So the story follows the days in Ismailiya but also we are moving in New York or Chile or Lebanon to see lives of expatriated Palestinians and how they are preserving that core of who they really are. The player from Lebanon introduces the audience to the reality of life in Palestinian refugee camps, with the scarcity of work and opportunities as well as the daily struggle for survival.
Naturally the worst situation is with the part of the team which supposes to come from Gaza. Israeli part of the border is closed and no one has idea when it’ll be reopened. They are trying several times to cross the border and each time they (along with hundreds of other people) had to go back. Once there were gun shooting at the frontier and guys didn’t even raise their eyes to see what’s going on; they were sitting and joking like nothing is happening around them. One of them said “Oh this is nothing unusual; this is part of our everyday life. We could have a training drill here while waiting”. I must say that I recognized Serbian mentality in these words.
And the time is passing. So 10 days before the match the team still doesn’t have enough players and the ones who are there are in linguistic mud.
So the coach’s mood is in one moment filled with determination to make a strong team capable to win qualifying match and in the next moment is like broken under incredible obstacles his team is facing with.
“Goal Dreams” is a testament to the power of the Palestinian dream and to the Palestinian people’s ability to hold onto the hope in spite the horrifying reality in which are living.
One of the last scenes in the film is showing player from Lebanon and behind him huge Adidas billboard with David Beckham and the message “Impossible is Nothing”.