Dreaming the Ultimate Goal of Statehood

p>Goal Dreams is a documentary film that unassumingly weaves the Palestinian struggle for statehood, national identity and basic human rights through the many challenges that faced the Palestinian national football team in their bid to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Through the telling of this story, the filmmakers successfully illustrate the harsh reality of Palestinian life and history, without making any overt political or religious statements. It is simply the story of a group of men with a dream to represent their nation through the great sport of football. However, the power of this movie lies in its ability to communicate so poignantly the struggles of all Palestinians through the team’s efforts to achieve its dreams.

Goal Dreams focuses on the Palestinian national team’s efforts to gather in Qatar to practice for their last chance to qualify in a match against Uzbekistan. Through this event the documentary highlights the experiences and emotions of a diverse group of men who have come from across the globe to represent Palestine, a country that technically does not exist. The team players represent the Palestinian diaspora in Latin America, Europe, the United States, a Lebanese refugee camp, as well as the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The diversity of the team is further complicated by the team’s Palestinian-British owner, Austrian coach, and various translators who tried to communicate and coordinate the training and team-building efforts.

Despite living in different countries, having different cultures, and speaking different languages, the players share a proud sense of Palestinian identity that transcends their cultural, emotional, and linguistic differences. At the same time, many of the players also face, perhaps for the first time, what it means to be Palestinian. As the film hones in on the experiences of a few players it becomes clear that their Palestinian identities are both challenged and strengthened by virtue of their shared goal.

As the documentary chronicles the team’s challenges from the birth of the idea to create a Palestinian football team through their tremendous effort and will to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, it is impossible not to associate their struggle with the Palestinian political struggle for freedom and statehood.

The difficulties the team face begin with the seemingly straightforward task of recruiting players and do not stop, even once, throughout their bid for World Cup qualification. At every turn they meet another obstacle: securing a stadium for their practice, learning to play as a team despite the cultural and language barriers, and not least the constant threat of disqualification as more than half the team is unable to make its way to Qatar from the West Bank in time to prepare for the match.

The uncertainty and tension of the team practicing in Qatar, struggling through injuries, infighting and even with their own identities is mirrored by that of the other half of the team held indefinitely in the West Bank due to ad-hoc military closing of borders (even with the appropriate papers and permissions in hand). It is this constant tension and uncertainty evident in both the players on the pitch, and the players behind the checkpoint in Gaza that best illustrates the hardship of everyday life for Palestinians living under occupation.

The team’s experience is a clear reflection of the tragic and surreal Palestinian reality of being a displaced and occupied population in the twenty-first century. The players are offspring of generations of refugees and immigrants that were forced to leave their homeland or relocate to refugee camps. The absence of a national football stadium parallels the absence and suppression of the national right to a Palestinian state. Moreover, the tension and anxiety that the team endured owing to the travel restrictions imposed on the West Bank and Gaza team members by Israel reflects the difficult restrictions on movement that Palestinians are confronted on a daily basis while trying to move through their daily lives.

The beauty of this film is that while it conveys an unpleasant reality, it is neither heavy handed nor in your face. In fact, it is at times light-hearted and even elicits a few laughs. At the end of the day, it is a classic underdog story, by which anyone, no matter their nationality, culture or religion can relate to and be inspired. No matter the outcome of the match, the documentary ultimately leaves the viewer with the belief that the Palestinian spirit cannot be dampened no matter how many days or years go by or how many checkpoints and walls are in the way. The resilient Palestinian spirit will continue to burn on and illuminate the path towards the ultimate goal, right, and dream of every Palestinian—a free independent Palestine.

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