The Syrian army apparently want to play a “goodwill” football match with the rebels in Aleppo
Syria play Iran earlier this month (Mohd Rasfan/AFP)
The Syrian regime has reportedly sent text messages to “armed” rebels in Aleppo inviting them to play a “goodwill” football match tomorrow. Screenshots of the messages have been shared on social media, and in some media reports, although it is not clear whether they are genuine.
Syrian regime invites people in east Aleppo to play in a football match tomorrow as a "goodwill gesture" pic.twitter.com/Lni5VJg3v5— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) November 23, 2016
The invitation purports to be from Aleppo Governorate, and suggests that the match will be held “for the good of the nation” at the Hamdania Stadium on Thursday at midday.
However, it seems unlikely that the reports are true, given that East Aleppo has been under siege since July and the Syrian government is currently engaged in what has been described by a local doctor as “a war of extermination” against the rebel-held area of the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that 141 civilians had been killed in the last week of violence.
The messages are most probably a product of dark humor, then.
On social media the predominant response was incredulity:
Oh, so what they’ve begun an entertainment program for the armed rebels now? Is this in celebration of a barbaric festival?
Oh, because they can watch the match and then just go home, right?
As farcical as it may seem, there is a precedent for football uniting warring parties. The Christmas truce of 1914 saw French, British and German troops cross their trenches to kick a ball around together before returning to slaughtering each other.
The fate of the Syrian civil war is seen by many as riding on the outcome in Aleppo, which has been divided between government and rebel control since 2012. The regime, supported by a newly arrived Russian aircraft carrier, recently announced a campaign to crush the opposition there. Sadly, it seems that there will be little opportunity for reconciliatory football matches there in the near future, then.