Youssef, 23, Aida Camp, Bethlehem - 09/04/2009

Monday 28 December 2009
popularity : 90%

Read the whole report on our meeting with Youssef, on Thursday April 9

Interview of Youssef, 23. Had one leg amputated at 16. Translation by Oussama, 31.

Thank you first, Youssef, for inviting us to your basket-ball training match yesterday... We saw you were the best ! Oussama, can you ask Youssef for us : how did you join this basket-ball team?

Youssef 1

As a child I liked basket-ball very much and I wanted to maybe become a professional one day… So when that happened to me …. Well, I went to hospital in Beit Jala and…. You know, before my accident, I didn’t know anything about this team for handicaped players... I was very happy to meet them because it meant that maybe my dream was not over… Not yet : there were still possibilities for me to play basket ball. This was really good news for me… I have been with that team since then, and very happy.

Did the basket-ball team he is in now already exist when he had that accident? How did he hear about it ? How did he join them?

Before, I mean before what happened to my leg, I was in the basket-ball team of my school, I was the best one, really, because I liked basket ball so much… So, euh… On the Sunday before I got injured, I had tried to play in a wheelchair. It was with a team of handicapped players and I wanted to show them that they were just like us, normal… But I remember it was really hard for me to imagine myself as “not normal”… So, after what happened, I met some of them at the hospital, and I asked them, please give me a chance to play with you, because basket-ball is my dream… They accepted, and they invited me to come and watch them while training… And they told me that if I was interested I could join them… that’s how I became a member of that team… And… I’m not sad. I love my team. Today, I’m very strong, and I think, this leg, it’s not the end of my life after all…

Oussama, do you think we can ask him what happened with his leg or is it too difficult for him to talk about it?... But before, I’d like you to tell him that I had brain-bleeding 15 months ago and that I was paralysed, and in a wheelchair for about 3 months. Tell him please, so that he knows I can understand exactly what it feels like…

Oussama : Ok, but before that, let me also tell you something. I feel this touches something very soft in you… Be strong!

You’re telling me to be strong?

Oussama : Yes I am

But I am, yes I am don’t worry. I’m tender and strong together.

Youssef : Thank you

If you could now tell us what happened to you...

Youssef 2

It was in 2001, I was 16 years old then… I was with a journalist, here in front of Al-Rowwad Centre, well before it was built here... I wanted to show him the Israeli tanks that had come to demolish the houses. At that moment, I got injured... A tank had fired at me… I lost a lot of blood…. I spent 16 days in hospital. People thought I was dead. They called me a martyr, thinking I was going to die… It’s a strange thing to hear people call you a martyr… When I came round, they were all in shock, they couldn’t believe it : Youssef, you are alive!…I’m a lucky man, really… I have a brother, he is a martyr…. He was in jail for 6 days. Then when he was released he came to see me after the accident… A few days later, he was killed… He was only 23.

Oussama, tell him we are sorry, please.

No, no, there are more miserable stories than mine. 14.31 - 15.01 You can check : in every house of Palestine, there is a sad story to be told… you know, we are like in prison here, in a small prison... Three months ago, I tried to drive Americans to Jerusalem… I took all kinds of twists and turns, a real zig-zag route… I spent more than 7 hours in the car, in vain…

Youssef, after that, you decided to stay strong, to go on with your dream of basket-ball… Could you tell us how often you train, how long for ?…

Youssef 3

We have 2 training sessions a week. We play for about 3 hours a week… Which is not enough to improve one’s skills… I would like to improve my game, but it is simply impossible here : there are no clubs in Palestine, no place where we could train as we would like to. There is one place in Bethlehem, but… My dream would be to go and train in Europe, in any other country outside, be able to improve my game… Yeah, I’d like to see other teams play, other skills… Our team is the best in the area, much better than the Jordanian, the Egyptian or the Syrian ones, but we are not the best in the world .That would be my dream, be the best in the world… As for doing body-building, I need that, because I need to be very strong to be able to do two things at a time : shoot the ball into the basket and steer my wheeling-chair…

Oussama, could you ask Youssef if there is a last thing he would love to tell us ?

I would like first of all to thank all of you for your kindness, and also for coming all the way from Belgium to stay and live with us for a while, share our situation, be with us in Al-Rowwad... Thank you also for wanting to bring back a real picture of us. And also… I hope that this video of me, Youssef… Maybe, you will show it to the Belgian basket-ball team… And, maybe then , one day, I will be lucky enough to play against them… Thank you for everything.

Thank you!

No, thank you!

No thank you!

No you!

Thanks to you, Youssef, and to you, Oussama for translating!