To many of you it is probably a big surprise that Syria can still have a national team playing in the final round of WC Qualifier in Asia. Syria is in the so-called ‘Final 12 Teams’ round Group A with Iran, South Korea, China, Uzbekistan and Qatar.
The team is ‘politically correct’ firstly. Although their home cannot be at Damascus, their base is still there, therefore some top players who are in exile for being opposed to Ba’ath party and Bashar al-Assad’s regime are ‘retired’. For example, Firas Al-Khatib is one of them.
But despite so many difficulties (for various reasons getting 23 suitable players in squad is nearly impossible), Syria are impressive in this Group. They lost 1-0 away in Tashkent, drew 0-0 with South Korea at ‘home’ in Malaysia and even won 1-0 away in Xi’an. These achievements are not easy. For example, all players and staff went to play their away match in Uzbekistan from Damascus (Syria) – Beirut (Lebanon) – Dubai (UAE) – Moscow (Russia) – Dushanbe (Tajikistan) – Almaty (Kazakhstan) – Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Six transfers and all economy class for the entire trip. This is unthinkable to any other teams in the world.
Let’s put Ba’ath party, Bashar and all other political correctness aside, it is simply an extraordinary achievements for the coach and players as people. Hopefully peace will come to Syria soon.