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Libyan soccer duo join rebels

June 25, 2011 at 10:47 AM

JADU, Libya, June 25 (UPI) -- The goalkeeper for Libya's national soccer team and the coach of the Tripoli club al-Ahly say they have defected to the rebels seeking to oust Moammar Gadhafi.

Goalkeeper Juma Gtat told the BBC Friday night he and Coach Abdel bin Issa were now on the rebel side.

"I am telling Col. Gadhafi to leave us alone and allow us to create a free Libya," Gtat said in an interview at a hotel in rebel-held western Libya. "In fact, I wish he would leave this life altogether."

It was not clear what Gtat and bin Issa will be doing for the rebels; however, Britain's The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday their defection could have a significant propaganda impact in soccer-crazy North Africa. A total of 13 leading figures in Libyan soccer have jumped ship since the rebellion began.

Gtat and bin Issa met with the BBC in the mountain town of Jadu, where rebels hold the high ground while Gadhafi's better-armed troops control the valleys and the roads into the area.

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