Footballer takes on the Syria Gzira FC haters and racists in Facebook livestream

‘Here’s my right of reply’, social worker and footballer Omar Rababah tells racists and far-right trolls on Facebook 

Omar Rababah gives online trolls a live reply
Omar Rababah gives online trolls a live reply

With his deadpan replies, calling out the haters and racist commenters on Facebook, Maltese-Syrian social worker Omar Rababah mounted a defence of the amateur league football team of immigrants he dubbed Syria Gzira FC

Rababah felt compelled to launch a livestream on Facebook to answer commenters to a TVM feature on his football team, who took issue with the fact that the new club was made up of immigrants from African countries and the Middle East. 

“This is unfair. I have to answer these comments because I feel I have to defend my teammates,” Rababah, whose father Hashem was a Gzira United football player, said. 

He managed to answer most of every single comment to a TVM feature on amateur club Syria Gzira, which Rababah coaches, and which includes a Maltese soldier, and former asylum seekers now residing in Malta from Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Ghana, Palestine, and Sudan. The club trains at Santa Venera, and plays in the amateur Swan league.

READ MORE ‘My father was embraced with open arms by the Maltese – if that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t exist’

His replies seemed to tackle practically every single aspect of the usual racist vitriol planted on Facebook: 

“They say Malta is becoming a ‘little African island’... sure Malta is geographically close to Africa, I guess.” 

“This one says you can have a team for every division from Hamrun alone: yes, Hamrun does have a lot of immigrants living there, but who rents out those properties to them for some €700 a month? I wonder.” 

“Some commenters here are saying we are keeping Maltese players out of the game. I don’t think there are enough Maltese players for the leagues. There are no political advantages here: half the team does not have the right to vote. 

“Someone here complains about not having had his amateur team featured on TV. We’re nothing special but we happen to be a mixed bunch of immigrants.” 

Rababah was quick to explain some basic rules about the Maltese league set-up: Malta has three amateur leagues, the MAFA, IASC, and Swan, and foreigners can play in all four divisions of the semi-professional leagues, up to seven foreign players in the Premier league. Any team in the Swan league has to be associated with a town: originally they were not allowed to be registered as Syria Valletta, so they chose Gzira because Rababah is a native of Gzira.

“I don’t understand. These people are complaining if migrants stay in their detention centres and do nothing, the complain if they ‘take jobs’ by going out to work, and now if they play football, it’s bad.... why don’t you just leave them alone?” Rababah said. 

Rababah even gave his compatriots some reality-checks, querying their knee-jerk reactions to a team of foreign players, when they are the first to support foreign teams and welcome foreign footballers here, and enjoy foreign performers at Isle of MTV. 

“The German national team had Tunisians, Turks and Poles playing... and won the World Cup,” Rababah said. 

Rababah’s team originally was meant to be an offshoot of the Syrian Solidarity in Malta NGO, but after his involvement the team opened itself up to other nationalities. “I believe in unity in diversity... otherwise we would be creating ghettoes by excluding others.” 

In his comments to TVM, Rababah said racism in Malta was felt the most on social media and said activities such as football could help with integration. “When they see people like this playing with them, automatically the barrier of racism is broken, especially when there is a good player because... then [other clubs] try to take him away from us.” 

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