Mahmoud Amnah retains a positive, cheerful demeanour when he interacts with mediapersons. A serious tone, however, begins to emerge when asked about the happenings in his home-town.
The Aizawl FC footballer was born and raised in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo. In the last five years, forces aligned with and against President Bashar al-Assad have engaged in a bloody battle, destroying much of the landscape.
“It has been six years since I last went to Syria. It has become a dangerous place now,” Mahmoud says.
Just before fighting escalated, the footballer moved to Cairo (Egypt). “My wife is an Egyptian. After my marriage, in 2009, my parents and I moved to Cairo. That’s my home now,” he says.
While Mahmoud is happy to have his parents in safe waters, he is worried about the fate of two other relatives. His brother and sister still reside in Aleppo. “For them, Aleppo is home. They won’t move out of home. I talk to them all the time. You know, anything can happen to them. They can die. Bad things can happen,” he says.
Mahmoud holds great memories of life at Aleppo, before the war started. “When I was a kid, my brother was crazy about football. He would take me to watch all the matches, and I fell in love with the sport,” he says.
In 2003, Mahmoud joined Al-Ittihad Aleppo, a big name in Asian club circles. It was a dream come true. “Al-Ittihad is a huge side. I was with them for six seasons. Every match would get massive crowds. In 2010, they won the AFC Cup. I wasn’t in the team at the time, but it was a big achievement,” he says.
Once the war broke, many Syrian footballers were forced to ply their trade in other parts of the world. “We have families, and we have to do what is best for them. So many of us moved out of the country," he says.
Asked if he would like to return to Aleppo when peace returns to the region, Mahmoud replies, “Insha Allah. Yes, I do.”
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