Last Weekend Open Thread of the Year: Little Arabia and the Palestino Soccer Club




I realize that many of you don’t care too much about some guys wearing shorts and chasing a ball, but you do understand the implications of human activities including military conflicts, and the significance of sports.

One of the most prestigious international soccer tournaments is the Copa Libertadores de America, a tournament of top South American teams, and recently from Mexico. Libertadores means liberators, and it was named to honor the leaders of the wars of independence from Spain, the famous one being Simon Bolivar.

A team called Palestino classified for the 2015 competition, and were congratulated by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas:

“On behalf of all Palestinians worldwide, I want to thank you for this joy that you gave us in this special moment when we are in a diplomatic struggle to finally achieving freedom, justice and peace like other peoples in the world.”

“You have raised our colors and have given us a voice in difficult times. We identify Palestino as our second national team for the Palestinian people. The club Palestino is a portion of Palestine in Chile, and you are players and also ambassadors of our colors throughout South America”

These original Palestino Jerseys use the silhouette of the map of pre-occupation Palestine for the numeral one – the team will not be allowed to wear them in Chile.

I had read the statement from Abbas in a Chilean newspaper and I found the quote above in The Times of Israel. Earlier this year, the map of Palestine before the occupation was included in the jersey of the team (above) which provoked the indignation of some Jewish organizations, who stated that the shirt incites “violence and hatred.”  One of the soccer players responded “I wish that instead of worrying about a jersey, they worried about the children that die day after day in Palestine”

This soccer club was founded in 1920, which indicates that people were emigrating from a Palestinian state established a long time before the creation of Israel in 1948.  Today Palestine does not exist as a recognized independent state, but the number of countries willing to recognize it as such is increasing.

The article “One Hundred Years of Palestinians in Chile” explains the emigration and development of this community. Here’s the introduction:

Chile is located in the southern part of the world and inhabited by 16 million people. Ethnically speaking it is composed mainly of a mixture of Spanish colonizers and indigenous people. For more than 150 years, however, several foreign communities have been settling in Chile…a small group of Palestinian Christians, most of whom came from the Bethlehem area, began to settle around Santiago. .. They were often called “Turks” – a derogatory reference to the Ottoman occupying power in Palestine…”

It’s estimated that today Chile is the country outside of the Middle East with the highest number of people of Palestinian background.  The latest wave of Palestinians refugees arrived from Syria five years ago.  Palestinians nowadays represent a broad spectrum of the Chilean society, many of them prominent politicians, united in their quest for a Palestinian state.

A couple of young Palestinian friends living in Anaheim’s Little Arabia district, where a high number of  Arab immigrants reside, did not know about their Chilean paisanos.   They were elated at learning this history, that they have an extended family in unlikely places, but also sad that they don’t have a place for their own soccer team, a place that was taken away from them and where they are now treated as war enemies and second class citizens.

EDITORS:  This is your LAST OPEN THREAD OF 2014 – behave and chit-chat, Juicers!

About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly.