Raqqa Revitalizing Its Sport: Second Volleyball League
The beginning of August was also the beginning of al-Mahabba volleyball league in Raqqa, where eight teams from Raqqa city and its countryside participat in the second, however, the largest, version of a volleyball league.
While the event is to last for a month, the competing teams prepare for the semi-final and the final games, after they paused for the Eid al-Adha break, the sports supervisor of the Youth and Sport Committee of Raqqa Civil Council, Ahmad al-Sharif explained to Enab Baladi.
The games are played on the Euphrates hexagonal pitch in Raqqa city, organized by the Youth and Sports Committee under the supervision of the Sports Federation. Al-Sharif stated that at the end of the Volleyball League, prizes will be awarded to the 1st and 2nd place winners.
The first volleyball league was held last September, named “Helen Judy,” after a girl who died in Raqqa on October 1, 2015, consisting of teams of the northern and eastern countrysides of Raqqa.
Sport expelling ghosts of death
Raqqa is still suffering lack of services, widespread rubble and ongoing security concerns, despite being controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for nearly two years.
The administration, represented by the local council, worked to rehabilitate Raqqa stadiums and conduct its sporting activities.
The establishment of the Civil Council of Raqqa coincided with the expulsion of the Islamic State (IS)’s fighters from their alleged capital in 2017, and the Youth and Sports Committee, which emanated from the council, began rehabilitating the sports stadiums and called on players to build their teams in the city and its countryside.
The committee also started restoring facilities and organizing sports leagues such as football, chess and volleyball, according to the website of the local council. One of its most prominent activities was the rehabilitation of the municipal soccer stadium in the city, which began in October 2018 until July 2019, retrieving its main function after the IS’ fighters used it as a prison and an execution center during its rule which began in April 2013.
Speaking to Enab Baladi, al-Sharif added that the coming days will bear witness to classification-based leagues and meetings bringing athletes together, within the committee’s efforts to grant licenses and rank the local teams.
Raqqa suffered a “massive” destruction after five months of continuous bombing by the US- led coalition forces during its offensive to expel the IS fighters, for 6,039 airstrikes were conducted between June and November 2017.
As a result of the offensive, 3,326 buildings were totally destroyed, 3,962 others were completely leveled to the ground and 5,493 ones were partially destroyed, as demonstrated by the study of the United Nation Institute For Training and Research (UNITAR) that examined the condition of the city after the end of the offensive.
One after the other, the committees of Raqqa Civil Councils reported the mass graves they found, which were clogged with dead bodies, and the most notable one was the cemetery of al-Rashid Stadium, which included more than 500 bodies discovered in April.
In May 2019, the coalition admitted that it had “ unintentionally ” killed 1,302 civilians during its offensive against IS in Syria and Iraq from 2014 till April 2019. Besides, the Syrian Network for Human Rights documented that 3,035 civilians had been killed by coalition troops since September 2014 till March 2019.