Football Returns To Aleppo For First Time in Five Years

Aleppo was the center of the Syrian Refugee Crisis and Syrian Civil War. It was one of the most devastating conflicts in the history of modern warfare and a major proportion of infrastructure was destroyed. However as the city rebuilds, citizens are attempting to live a normal and stable lifestyle.

The city hosted a local football match between Al-Ittihad and Hurriya, with Al-Ittihad defeating their city rivals 2-1 in the first football match to take place in Aleppo in five years. Professional football has been on hiatus since 2011 during the initial stages of the conflict however after the Syrian Government regained control during a major offensive attack the match was arranged.

The football grounds had been clearly affected by the impacts of war. The structure of the stadium was damaged due to the bombing by the Russian and Syrian coalition and the bombing campaign, subsequent fires and winter weather left the grass brown and weathered.

According to reports the atmosphere was highly competitive and similar to any other football match and aside from a banner in the stands showing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, there were very few signs of division among crowd. Police dressed in riot gear were stationed on the pitch in preparation for any violent conflict. However, the event remained peaceful for its entirety.

Fans were chanting passionately for their respective teams to come out victorious. Ittihad player Omar Hamidi said to reporters in attendance: “I can’t tell you how it feels to return to the pitch after five years.”

Hurriya player Firas Al-Ahmad said of the game: “It is our right to play in Aleppo. And we play better in Aleppo. When we play on our ground with our fans our performance improves.”

Aleppo: A City In Flames

The conflict officially concluded on December 22nd 2016. However, the war for Syria and instability in the Middle East is far from over. According to the UN the conflict resulted in 31,183 causalities.

Aleppo is an ancient city and has been inhabited since the 6th millennium BC. The current President Bashar al-Assad has been in league with Russian President Vladimir Putin for multiple years and together they have agreed to a military coalition with the primary goal of conquering Syria. The Russian backed Syrian forces have been coordinated by both men.

Russians have provided extensive support in terms of equipment for President Bashar al -Assad’s army however the UN have been unable to sanction Russia due to the their veto power. Last year Tirana Hassan, director of Amnesty International’s crisis response programme, told Sky News that Russia is guilty of committing war crimes. She said: “We’ve documented strikes on schools, strikes on hospitals and civilian homes. And one of the most egregious parts of what Russia and the Syrian forces are doing is that they’re bombing these civilian targets when it itself is a war crime.”


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