In the face of unspeakable tragedy and unimaginable loss for the Palestinian people, there is a group of 11 people helping to lift the spirit and brighten some of the darkest days in recent history. Those 11 people are the Palestinian national soccer team.
International soccer tournaments in 2024 seem to continue the trend of massive upsets and unlikely teams going far set in the 2023 World Cup in Qatar when big teams like Argentina lost to smaller teams like Saudi Arabia and teams like Morocco that made it to the quarterfinals as the first-ever African team to make it past the round of 16.
This Asian Cup also has monumental firsts for the Palestinian national team. The first win in the Asian Cup came against Hong Kong with a 3-0 win, which also gave them their first-ever appearance in the knock-out stages in only their third-ever Asian Cup appearance
Their opening game started rough after a 4-1 loss to tournament favorites Iran. However, they showed flashes and glimpses throughout the game of a cohesive team that can stand up to the tournament favorites. It was the next two games against the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong that decided their faith in the Asian Cup.
During their game with UAE, an own goal by the UAE in the second half gave them their first point of the tournament. Palestine’s final group stage match against Hong Kong stood between them and the round of 16, which they had never come close to before. About an hour and a half and three goals later, the Lions of Canaan came out victorious with all three points, a clean sheet, and a punched ticket to the knock-out rounds.
Throughout the tournament, the members of the Palestinian national team dealt with the fear and anxiety that at any moment, they would receive a call or text telling them that yet another loved one had been killed. That means every team dinner, training session, pre-match warm-up, halftime talk, and bus ride back to the hotel was fraught with the reality that they might never see that loved one again or that they might not have any family to return to at all.
The fact that they made it to the round of 16 and got their first win while dealing with the pressure to perform, sadness from what was going on in Gaza, and grief from losing a loved one, if not multiple. It’s commendable, and whatever happens after, at least they gave their people a little bit of joy. That is something no one can take away from them despite whatever result their round of 16 match vs the host and reigning champions Qatar comes to.
Read more soccer news from Stadium Rant here: Soccer News
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