Syria dare to dream | from war to World Cup

Syria’s World Cup Qualifying campaign isn’t just a feel good football miracle, it’s a story of survival.

Six years of war has brought a beautiful country to its knees. The death toll has risen to a shocking 470,000 people. 55,000 of the casualties being children.

Children play football on the streets to the sound of falling bombs, whilst we become desensitized to hearing the same repetitive news updates on our T.V screens.

Whilst it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the ongoing chaos of war, Syria’s national football team has caught the eye of the entire football world.

Residing in Malaysia, a united team of 23 Syrian footballers travel to Beijing and defeat China 1-0 against all odds. Lets remember the Chinese government have spent over 1 billion dollars on football development in the last year.

One month later Syria go one better, earning a point against treble Asian Cup Champions and 33rd World FIFA ranked nation Iran.

Also remember that Syria were one day away from forfeiting their World Cup Qualifying run. Most of Syria’s national football team play their football abroad, but some weren’t so lucky, forced into a life of war.

Money is also an issue when travelling over 8,000 miles around Asia for qualifying games. It’s a multi million dollar burden which the Asian Football Confederation has kindly taken care of.

Whilst football may not put an end to the war, one thing the Syrian football team has done is filled their people with hope, and empowered them through football. Just last week, Syria defeated Uzbekistan 1-0 and it’s gotten the people talking. Could they actually qualify for Russia?

The run home |

A quick turnaround saw the Syrians fall admirably to 2015 Asian Cup runners up South Korea. Despite the 1-0 loss, World Cup Qualification remains in sight.

Syria sit four points adrift from Uzbekistan with three games remaining. Every one of them crucial for World Cup survival. Iran could do Syria a massive favor if they defeat Uzbekistan at home in June. Syria face China at their adopted Malaysian home – a win would bring them within one point of the Uzbeks.

Their second final game would see them play bottom placed Qatar followed by Iran, whilst Uzbekistan face China away followed by South Korea at home.

If their cards fall into place, Syria could potentially finish in a third position playoff spot.

If they went all the way to qualify for the World Cup in Russia it would no doubt become the greatest footballing miracle of all time.

 

Ari Charilaou