Palestine socccer in action at Asia Cup.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian soccer team’s political goal was achieved during its Asian Cup opener against Japan and the players will now focus on the sport as they seek to upset Jordan in their second group match, coach Ahmed al-Hassan said on Thursday.
With the sudden loss of their previous coach, friendly matches canceled and players blocked from travel, the Palestinians have battled against the odds just to make the continental showpiece in Australia and their pride was undimmed by their 4-0 humbling by Japan in Newcastle.
“We came to Australia to achieve two goals, unlike the other 15 teams who have one goal,” said al-Hassan, who stepped up when his former boss Jamal Mahmoud quit suddenly in September.
“The first one is political, the other one is sport. The first point was achieved when we saw the name Palestine and the Palestinian flag was raised at the first match. And we heard the Palestinian national anthem and the message of our people was delivered.”
Ranked 113th in the world, the Palestinians take on Jordan at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Friday, with both teams desperate for a win to keep their quarterfinals hopes alive.
“Our first goal is to play a match against Jordan that is up to the challenge and to achieve a victory for Palestine,” al-Hassan said. “The other is if we win against Jordan tomorrow that we are going to play against Iraq with high motivation to make it to the next round.
“And then we can go back home and say we have achieved these two objectives.”
Beating neighboring Jordan will be a tough task, but Palestinian defender Abdallatif al-Bahdari at least has inside information on their opponents, having played with many of them at Jordan Premier League champions Al-Wehdat.
“Tomorrow I’m going to play against seven of my teammates,” the 30-year-old told reporters. “And I will do my best to perform in a way to make a victory and defeat my seven friends.”