Friday, June 21, 2019

Fighting for Palestine: The Palestinian MMA fighter in Canada


By Marc Henry - August 05, 2018
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Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [sport]

He is among the best Mix Material Arts fighters in Canada, but his heart is in Palestine. When Amro Al Falastini enters the cage, he is fighting for more than just the win. 

Born and raised for the first 11 years of his life in Bir Nabala outside Ramallah, Amro Al Falastini left the West Bank for Canada. As so, the today 21-year-old Palestinian has had quite a different childhood than his Canadian friends.
 
“I remember many things from my childhood in Palestine. I think it was like growing up anywhere else, the only difference was the culture, how people act, and experiences with children my age. I mean, I have seen a lot of stuff, Al Falastini told Palestine Monitor.
 
“Over the years in Canada, I haven’t had to go through checkpoints or see soldiers with guns every day. When you grow up in Palestine, it was just normal. I used to come home from school and play outside with my friends all day. When you grow up in Palestine, you don’t think much about it. It is just life.”
 
From fighting in school to fighting in the cage
 
Coming from Palestine to Hamilton in Canada as a young boy wasn’t easy for Amro Al Falastini. Readjusting to a society not under occupation was not done overnight. Suddenly, Al Falastini found himself in the middle of a society with nice cars, nice schools and friendly police officers. And it might just have been too much of a change for the young man.
 
“I remember the first year when I was in ESL (English as a Second Language class) which is for immigrant kids. It was all about learning English and playing games. I got in a lot of trouble and fights because of misunderstandings, and I had different reactions than most of the kids,” Al Falastini said.
 
Fighting became a part of Al Falastini’s personality throughout his school years. So much that his father at one point had enough.
 
“When I was in high school I got into a lot of fights. I just had a lot of energy and picked fights with everyone who went my way. When I got suspended twice in a week, my dad decided that if I wanted to fight that much, I should start attending a taekwondo club at the top of the mosque in Hamilton.”
 
When the family had to move up in the mountains of Hamilton, Al Falastini had to find another club. It wasn’t long until he was introduced to MMA (Mix Material Arts), but he had to work to fulfil his ambitions.
 
“I kept bothering my father about joining the local MMA club, and he agreed to pay for the first six months if I helped him renovate his house. So I helped him during Ramadan, and he signed me up.
 
Though Al Falastini spoke about his father also playing a less positive role in the start of his fighting career.
 
“The coach was interested in me and believed in me. I told that to my father who just replied that as long as I was paying, they would be interested in me. I didn’t take that well, and we got into a fight, and after that, my father wouldn’t pay for it anymore. Two weeks after that my coach called me to ask me where I had been. He wanted me to come and train the next day and soon after they decided to sponsor me.”
 
The young Palestinian fighter has not looked back since. So far it has come to six MMA fights and two titles, as well as being unbeaten in 11 kickboxing fights resulting in four championships. Currently, Amro Al Falastini is ranked as the number one MMA fighter in his division in Canada, hoping to become a professional within a couple of years.
 
More than just a name
 
While Amro Al Falastini is the stage name of the MMA fighter, he hopes to make it his legal name one day. For Amro, the name is more than just a name.
 
“This is the name that I want to go by forever. My family and I have many issues, especially on my father's side. When I was 16 my family split, and my mother took my brothers and sisters back home, and I went with them. After a year and a half, I went back to Canada and lived with my father for a couple of months before I was homeless for two years,” Amro al Falastini said.
 
“I did not get much help from him, so I decided to go by this name or one day be able to take my mother's side name, or change this to be my legal name.”
 
Despite not having been back in Palestine since he was 17, Palestine has a special place in the heart of Amro Al Falastini.
 
“Palestine is my country and where my mother and brothers live. Everyone I love is back home, and it is where I am from. I’ve seen a lot of bad things and a lot of good things back home, and many of my memories have been built there,” Al Falastini told Palestine Monitor.
 
Moreover, the love for Palestine is reflected in the chosen name. As his fighting career, the hope is that Amro Al Falastini can create attention around the occupation of Palestine.
 
“I have the feeling that I can put the word out one day. My dream is to be able to support my family, but my career also gives me an opportunity to speak for my country and the situation there,” the MMA fighter said.
 
“I have seen a lot; I have seen people with bullets in their heads and experienced friends being killed. This is the kind of stuff I can’t forget, and the more I think about it, the more I want to talk about it. God willing, in the future I will let the world know what is going on.”
 
Lead image: Amro Al Falastini with some of his Championship belts. Source: Amro Al Falastini/Facebook.

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