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Clapton Community Football Club and Football For Palestine organised a tournament

The Mohammed Barakat cup: Solidarity through football

On 5 May 2024, Clapton Community Football Club (CCFC) organised a solidarity fundraiser tournament with grassroots coalition Football for Palestine.

The tournament was named after Mohammed Barakat, “the legend of Khan Younis”, a Palestinian footballer who was killed on the first day of Ramadan (11 March 2024) by Israeli forces who bombed his family home in Gaza. CCFC is a fan-owned and fan-run club in East London founded in 2018 and is based on the values of community, anti-fascism, solidarity and equality. It was the first sports club in Britain to become an official Apartheid-free zone in 2021, when members voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Football for Palestine is a grassroots coalition of British-based football teams, fans, and players, established in 2023, who are mobilising the football community to cut ties with Israeli occupation, apartheid, and genocide in Palestine.

Our message, visible on the banners raised around the football pitch, was for a Free Palestine and the end of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. The tournament was a way to talk about Palestine through football. The game gives a common ground to bring different people together. We invited players from queer, refugee, migrant, and worker communities as well as local activist groups, punks, anarchists and squatters. Teams included players from Queerspace FC, Deptford Ravens, Baesianz FC, Sisterhood FC, Renaissance FC, United Voices of the World and Independent Workers Union. Once the tournament went up on the socials we ended up having to turn away some really interesting groups (or rather, promising a slot next year…!). Mixing gender and experience levels on the pitch is challenging but CCFC has hosted similar tournaments in the past and we continue to build our knowledge of how to manage mixed games and create spaces which aren’t dominated by the traditional macho toxicity. Teams were created on the day by mixing players from the different groups. This created balance –the scorelines were very close throughout– and allowed people to learn from each other and form bonds and friendships outside their usual groups.

Palestinian flags were placed on the corner posts on the pitches and various solidarity activities animated the day including a Design a Football workshop, Open Barbers, and food from Cafe Palestina, not only offered a taste of Palestinian cuisine but a chance to support Palestinian economic activities. During the games there were tunes from Egyptian London-based DJ, Nihal and Old Spotted Dog Ground’s resident DJs, Old Dogs Disco. London rapper Oracy started the after party in the clubhouse after her stint on the pitch, followed by street outreach rock ‘n’ roll from Johnny and the Elevated States. The night ended with some energetic tunes from Bristolians Spanner. The dancing by this stage maybe wasn’t as considered and skilful as the football had been earlier in the day but there were still some star performances.

Resisting the destruction of sport in Palestine

After the tournament, we organised a talk and a short film screening, and presented Football for Palestine’s Kick Out Barclays campaign. This calls on the English FA, Premier League, and Women’s Super League to drop Barclays,  “the bank of British football”, until Barclays divests from companies enabling and funding Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza. Barclays owns shares and finances over £8 billion to arms companies providing Israel with the weapons and technology it is using in Gaza. Football in Britain must not be funded by profits gained from bombs and war.

Football for Palestine spoke about the context of football in Palestine. Since October 2023, Israel has killed more than 182 Palestinian athletes including 106 football players, officials, and staff in the Palestinian football community, such as Youssef Hamada, a 21-year old youth player with Jabalia Youth Club, and Mohammad Khattab, Palestinian FIFA International Assistant Referee. Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza has destroyed clubs, stadiums, headquarters, and training grounds, and even bombed the Palestinian FA’s offices. Stadiums have also been used by Israeli forces to commit war crimes. In December, Israeli forces used Yarmouk Stadium, one of the oldest and largest stadiums in Gaza, to detain, torture and interrogate men, women, and children, many stripped to their underwear, kneeling with their arms cuffed behind their backs. They later destroyed the stadium.

These attacks on Palestinian sport are not limited to the recent assault in Gaza. Over the last 75 years, Palestinian sports have been consistently targeted by Israel in its intentional fragmentation and destruction of Palestine. Palestinian players and athletes are routinely attacked, imprisoned, and killed. Athletes are denied freedom of movement to attend their matches, competitions, and training. Palestinian stadiums and sports infrastructures have been bombed and destroyed. Israel even prevents sports equipment from being imported and sports facilities from being developed. There is widespread racism against Palestinians in Israeli football from fans. Israel has built football clubs on illegal settlements which are allowed to compete in official Israeli leagues, making international governing bodies like FIFA complicit in Israel’s violations of international law. Israel’s deliberate targeting of Palestinian football and sport has been documented and consistently raised by the Palestinian FA, but FIFA, UEFA, and other sporting bodies have chosen silence and complicity.

We screened Football In Palestine: Fixing What Politics Has Destroyed by Asif Khapedi which documents football culture in Palestine, the difficulties faced by the Palestinian FA, and the racism that Arab football players face under occupation. We were lucky to be joined by Asif Khapedi who spoke about his experience when visiting Palestine and making the film. Next, we showed Why Celtic Football Club Supports Palestine by Salem Barahmeh from Uncivilised Media. Celtic FC is Scotland’s most successful football club, and its history is intertwined with the Irish struggle for liberation against imperialism and, through this, solidarity with Palestine. In October 2023, Celtic fans waved thousands of Palestinian flags at Celtic Park. UEFA fined Celtic and the club banned the Green Brigade. For Celtic fans, the solidarity with Palestine is not just on the stand; in April 2000 Celtic helped found the Lajee Center in Aida Refugee Camp. Lajee is a community-based cultural centre that works with new generations to provide refugee youth and women with cultural, educational, social, and developmental opportunities. We were joined by members of the Celtic fans for the liberation of Palestine and a member of the ultras group The Bhoys who spoke about the important solidarity between Celtic and Palestine. 

Funds raised from the tournament            

All the money we collected is going to support the Gaza Sunbirds, a para-cycling team formed by amputees in Gaza. They ride to show the world their resilience, to bring hope home, and to inspire people through their stories. The Gaza Sunbirds have realigned their mission to focus on delivering essential community aid to safeguard civilians. They source food from remaining farms, warehouses, and supermarkets and distribute them in areas where traditional aid organisations can no longer reach.

Just as the sports boycott was crucial to toppling apartheid in South Africa, building a sports and football boycott movement in Britain and globally is a crucial part of our international solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and justice – and the Mohammad Barakat Cup is a part of our deep commitment and role in that as football fans and players in Britain. We hope that this is just the first tournament of many! In the face of ongoing death, destruction, and genocide, Palestinians “teach life” as the poet Rafeef Ziadah tells us. As a football community, we refuse to forget. We refuse to sportswash. And we will continue to mobilise until Palestine is free.

If you have any queries regarding the tournament or you would like to help organising the next one, get in touch with us by writing to

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