Doha, Qatar – Palestine began their final group match of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 with their hopes of qualifying for the subsequent spherical hanging by a thread, however ended it with an emphatic 3-0 win over Hong Kong and by sealing a last-16 spot.
The compact Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium become a Palestinian den on Tuesday evening because the Fedayeen roared into the knockout stage of the match.
When the final two video games of group C received underneath method at 6pm, Palestine have been trailing Iran, who had sealed their spot as group leaders, and second-placed United Arab Emirates (UAE) on factors and objective distinction.
Palestine’s supporters have been hopeful however not fully assured of securing a end result that might convey them in competition for a last-16 spot. At full-time, they have been in a state of disbelief at how their crew turned their fortunes round.
Some, like Linah al-Fatah, had religion of their crew.
“It says rather a lot about our willpower, self-belief and religion in God [as Palestinian people] that we now have bounced again within the match on this method,” she advised Al Jazeera after the match.
In accordance with Palestine’s captain Musab Al-Battat, it was a efficiency that confirmed the world that his crew is among the many finest within the continent.
“We wished to ship a message to the world that we now have a proper to take part in each main soccer match, and never only for the sake of participation, however to point out our expertise,” Al-Battats assist in his passionate post-match information convention.
“We should be right here.”
PALESTINE 🇵🇸 is within the #AsianCup2023 Spherical of 16
— AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 (@Qatar2023en) January 23, 2024
The captain stated his crew got here into the match with a “clear goal” of placing a smile on the faces of their supporters.
The supporters, in flip, helped the gamers decide themselves up after a crushing defeat of their opening match towards Iran 9 days in the past.
Their second match, towards the UAE, noticed an improved efficiency that was vociferously backed by a partisan crowd.
Final week’s 1-1 draw towards their regional rivals was the stepping stone of their progress and the win towards Hong Kong sealed their popularity as a crew that can’t be brushed apart.
For his or her half, Hong Kong started the match brightly as their group of 500 travelling supporters made their presence felt from the one stand that they occupied.
Wearing pink and carrying their banners from all the way in which again dwelling, the followers arrived and settled in lengthy earlier than kickoff and earlier than the native Palestinian supporters took their seats.
Nonetheless, as soon as the match kicked off it was clear that their crew was underneath stress.
FT | 🇭🇰 Hong Kong, China 0️⃣-3️⃣ Palestine 🇵🇸
— #AsianCup2023 (@afcasiancup) January 23, 2024
Palestine relentlessly attacked the Hong Kong objective with a robust ahead line, and reaped the reward with three targets.
Each Palestinian assault was backed with a crescendo of noise.
Totally different teams of Palestinian followers took turns in chanting pro-Palestine slogans and calling for freedom.
Their captain, Al-Battat, acknowledged the help after the match.
“The 1000’s of followers in Qatar and the tens of millions of displaced Palestinians all over the world are our primary motivation,” he stated with a steely look.
His crew are almost sure to face hosts, holders and favourites Qatar of their round-of-16 tie.
The prospect could also be daunting but when there may be one factor Palestine have proven within the 12 days of this match and the 109 days of the warfare in Gaza, they won’t surrender with no battle.
“We have now confronted each problem with willpower and we aren’t going to cease now.”
For his or her Gaza-born defender Mahmoud Saleh, the full-time whistle introduced a gush of feelings.
The quantity 5 fell to the bottom and buried his face within the grass as he cried uncontrollably. When he was lastly pulled up on his toes by his teammates, Saleh pulled his shirt over his face as he sobbed.
Saleh is without doubt one of the few gamers from Gaza who’re half of the present squad, and has spoken of the difficulties of taking part in and coaching whereas not with the ability to hear about his household’s security amid the warfare.
The win provides Saleh, Al-Battat and their teammates one other likelihood of making certain the Palestinian anthem is performed within the stadium, the Palestinian flag is waved by 1000’s and the Palestinian spirit is displayed for the world to see.