For a diaspora soccer club in Chile, 'Palestine exists'
Thousands of miles from the Middle East, in a stadium in Santiago, Chile, the nation of Palestine exists, if only for the 90 minutes of a soccer match.
Chileans and Palestinians created that alternate reality again on Thursday when Club Deportivo Palestino, which traces its origins to Palestinian immigrants who came to the South American nation in the early 1900s, held a tribute for the Gazan victims of the war between Israel and Hamas.
A banner reading "In memory of those who are no longer with us" was displayed in the stands, where a section of seats was left empty to represent the dead.
"We decided to have a space in our grandstand and leave it empty... as a gesture of support for the Palestinian people and what is happening in Gaza," club president Jorge Uauy told AFP.
Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Arab world, with the first immigrants arriving from Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
As the community -- now estimated to number 500,000 -- grew, the soccer club was founded in 1920.
The players took to the field in green, white and red striped jerseys, adorned with a map of the territory before the establishment of Israel, and observed a minute of silence.
Children wearing keffiyehs accompanied them. In a previous match, the players had worn the traditional Palestinian scarves themselves.
"There are different ways of expressing pain and closeness to Palestine. Today it was the children as a way of showing that they are the most affected," said Uauy.
"We hope (Palestinians) will see that there are people in other parts of the world who are looking out for them and who are suffering for them."
The latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, which governs the besieged Gaza Strip, started on October 7, when Hamas fighters in a bloody cross-border raid killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
Authorities in Gaza say nearly 15,000 people have been killed since the Israeli military bombardment and land invasion launched in response, most of them women and children.
The colorful club supporters made their own tributes in the stands.
"Gaza resists, Palestine exists," the fans shouted, along with the sound of drums and trumpets.
But 11 minutes into the game they stopped, so a lone trumpet could blare a funeral melody.
"We give them a little joy," said fan Jorge Yarur, 57.
Journalism student Benjamin Contardo, 20, says that fans are "very attached to the Palestinian cause."
"For us, Palestine is more than a team... It is a whole people, and we want to represent the voice of all of them," he said.