WBSC is supporting the project of introducing baseball and softball in the Gaza Strip, a part of Palestine on the Mediterranean Sea that borders with Egypt and Israel.
Coach Mahmoud Tafesh received Mini baseball/softball starter’s kits and equipment for 2 baseball and 2 softball teams. The goods arrived in Gaza on Sunday, 29 April, but were shipped months before.
“The fact our gear reached the Gaza Strip makes me really proud” commented WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari “Sports, baseball and softball in particular, do help communities”.
Mahmoud Tafesh is a 35 year old former professional soccer player. In the Fall of 2016 he was in Egypt and met one of the coaches of the Iraq Baseball National Team. He was so impressed by the game that he decided to introduce it in Palestine. Mahmoud educated himself watching hundreds of videos on YouTube and started coaching 20 girls. His players were required to were long sleeves, loose pants and a hijab during practice.
Although the families of the girls supported the project, the baseball players were considered “rebels” by most of the people in the Gaza Strip.
The project got anyway support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), that is in favor of women in sports competition in the area.
In October 2017 Sarah Koskievic of the daily newspaper Le Monde made the story public in France. It reached Laura Layousse, a French citizen born in Senegal by a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother. Laura contacted Le Monde and could connect with Tafesh.
Mahmoud Tafesh explained to her that in the Gaza Strip there are no baseball fields and that he had a hard time even finding the basic baseball gear. He had received one glove from the Ministry of Sport and asked a local tailor to make a few more from scratch. The girls themselves had to assemble their own wooden bats.
Laura Layousse decided to contact the French Baseball and Softball Federation and President Didier Seminet put her in touch with WBSC headquarters in Lausanne.
The project of Mahmoud Tafesh is growing. He now coaches 60 women (girls are actually pitching underhand, so they will be oriented to softball), 60 men and 30 kids under 15.
“Now we need to educate coaches, so they can teach the game” told us Mahmoud through an e-mail “We are looking for the help of National Federations”.
Mahmoud Tafesh thinks big. He first wants to get a Palestinian Federation recognized and then he wants to put together National Teams. He sees the participation to the Asian Continental Championships on his horizon.