The Syrian pride and their 2018 Russian World Cup attempt

In a very passionate match, playing on a very wet pitch, surprisingly Syria shared points with Iran in their road to 2018 FIFA World Cup: it is the third good result in this qualifier campaign, after memorable games against South Korea and China PR. If you type “Syria” on a web search engine, maybe you will find quite difficult to gain sports results, since all newspapers and blogs are speaking about civil war and terrorists, while once upon a time this was the land of Assyrians.

Today no one dares to travel to Aleppo for tourism or business, or for an Al-Ittihad match in their international stadium.

The National football team of Syria are playing abroad due to security reasons. Just imagine Syrian squad going to Oman, Iran and Malaysia: these countries took responsibility not only about facilities, but also accepted the risk of military attacks. In exchange Qasioun Eagles – as Syrian players are nicknamed at home – classified second in Group E of Asian zone in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, winning all matches except for two games against top ranked Japan. Thanks to this achievement Syria obtained a spot in 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

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Goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma has been impressive in recent matches of the third round of qualifiers, with great saves against South Korea (especially on Lee Chung-Yong) and China PR. Two players helped Syria to reach a historic victory in Xian on 6 October 2016: Omar Khribin launched Mahmoud Al Mawas winner goal. Both footballers play as professionals: 22-years-old Khribin plays in Al-Dhafra in UAE; Al Mawas (born 1993) wears Al Muharraq jersey in Bahrain. The most experienced member of the team is Aramean and Christian captain Sanharib Malki, who played in Europe between Belgium, Netherlands, Greece, and Turkey.
A lot of Qasioun Eagles currently play in Iraq and Syria (two countries stormed by bombs and massacres) so, before victorious journey to China, head coach Ayman Al Hakim said in a press conference:

Our players don’t have the chance to have longer team training together because of their obligations to their clubs, but we are quite used to it now anyway.

It is not hard to understand that in these conditions Syria have already made a miracle collecting 5 points in 5 games: they lost 0-1 against Uzbekistan and Qatar, shared points with Asian giants South Korea and Iran, and surprisingly defeated away China PR, provoking an uprising by Chinese people against Football Federation and head coach Gao Hongbo (who was replaced by Marcello Lippi).
Syria have never played a FIFA World Cup, but appeared in five AFC Asian Cups. The “golden era” was in 80s as they played three consecutive tournaments, but failed to reach quarter-finals. Since Syria and Egypt joined together in a single country called United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961, you could consider their win in 1959 Africa Cup and their participation in 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome: but FIFA and International Olympic Committee recognize only Egypt as winner (like Russia with USSR).
National legends as Zyad Chaabo and Hatem Ghaeb helped their clubs to lead Syrian Premier League but failed to qualify to FIFA World Cup: they are still considered as main references by Asian media, as you can read their interviews before every game.

siria2Meanwhile it seems unlikely that youngster Mahmoud Dahoud would choose one day to wear Syria senior jersey: born in 1996, of Kurdish descent, he currently plays for Germany Under 21 National team.

Meanwhile, the Syrian dream continues. And maybe, one day, we could see the Country under a different light, thanks to football, always more than a simple game.