Lebanese footballer killed fighting in Syria

Lebanese footballer killed fighting in Syria
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Published November 6th, 2016 - 00:13 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Kassem Shamkha (Photo: almayadeen.net)
Kassem Shamkha (Photo: almayadeen.net)

A promising 19-year-old Lebanese footballer who played in the country’s Premier League has been killed fighting alongside Hezbollah in the battle for Aleppo, his club said Friday.

Kassem Shamkha was killed “while fighting off a rebel attack Thursday on western Aleppo,” a source told AFP news agency, referring to the government-held side of the Syrian city.

Shamkha had played with Lebanese powerhouse Al-Ahed football club since 2009. “With great pride and honor, Al-Ahed football club announces the beloved, proud martyr Kassem Shamkha ... was killed while defending our nation [and] our land ... from the takfiri terrorists. Congratulations on fulfilling your wish, Kassem,” the footballer’s club said in a message posted to social media Friday.

Al-Ahed is backed by Hezbollah and many of its supporters come from the group’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“He was a very good player who could have had a successful football career, but he chose a different [path],” a source from Al-Ahed told The Daily Star.

The source added that the last time Shamkha was seen at the football club was during the Youth Cup Final in Sidon last June.

Shamkha was a key part of the Al-Ahed team in their victory during the youth cup title.

However, those close to the Shamkha said his death was not unexpected. “He would always say that his dream was to become a martyr,” the source explained.

He added that Shamkha would disappear once a month for around 10 days but always return. His friends and teammates believed that he would go to Syria and return following a period of fighting.

“He could have lived a long and successful life, even if he did not play football,” the source said flatly.

Al-Ahed Secretary-General Mohammad Assi told AFP, “He will go down in history in the club’s records, because he was a hero on the football field just like on the battlefield in defense of the homeland.”

He added, “He was a talented player with huge potential for the club and for Lebanon, but he chose the route of jihad.”

Shamkha’s body was returned to Lebanon Friday ahead of his funeral set for Saturday.

Shamkha is not the first footballer to die fighting in Syria. A number of Lebanese and foreign players have traveled to the 5-year-old conflict to fight for different sides. Most notably, Burak Karan – a former player for the German national youth team – left the game and converted to Islam in 2008. He then moved to Turkey with his family before crossing into Syria to join anti-government forces. Media reports indicate he was then killed in an airstrike in the town of Azaz in October 2013.

Copyright © 2016, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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