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Saturday, April 12, 2008 

Syria tries to make it into the World Cup

Wonderful article on Syria's footballing dream - from reaching the Asian Champions League final two years ago (that was Al Karama) to making it into the World Cup.

How the money men ended Syria's military approach to football
The Guardian, UK
James Montague
April 10, 2008 12:54 PM

" But five years ago the army's power was challenged by an unlikely source. The Syrian FA decided that enough was enough. Syrian football was going pro and if Al Jaish wanted to take any clubs' players then they'd have to pay for them. It was a brave, and rare, move in a country where dissent isn't often tolerated. ...

"More than 80% of Damascus used to support the army club," Toufik Sarhan, the FA's general secretary, told me. "But now many of the clubs are as good as Al Jaish, if not better, because we made the league professional. Rich men started to support their clubs. Football is much better now." ...

The next day's game involving Damascus' new No1 team Al Wehda and basement club Al Horriya showed just how unpopular Al Jaish have become, as 20,000 fans screamed throughout an end-to-end encounter, Al Wehda eventually winning 3-2 after being 2-1 down. The fans sung and taunted the opposition with cries of "kis akh tek Horriya" (Horriya, go fuck your sister) as they took the lead at the last. "Al Jaish are hated," 20-year-old Ali, a Wehda fan, told me. "When you're 20 they come and, bzzzz, shave your head. But if you sign for Al Jaish, they don't shave your head, you don't have to serve. And there's wasta. They have all this money and the referee always gives them the decisions, for sure." "


Full article here.

I wish Syria the best of luck in the World Cup qualification. I have followed the great performance of Al Karameh in the Asian Champions League but I am always amazed how Syrian teams (except Al Karameh) play outside better than on their ground. The Syrian team could have easily won in tehran but settled for a draw with the UAE in Syria. Al Ittihad has lost each and every game at home and won away. Peculiar!

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