Palestine wants the Asia Cup: “When lives are at stake, how can we not give our all?”

You have made us happy”, “We are very proud”, are some of the messages that the players of Palestine received after qualify for the round of 16 of the Asia Cup for the first time in its history. Words that are even more transcendent considering that those who speak them do so under the deafening sound of bombings and daily massacres. And football has been showing for years that it is much more than a sport. Eleven people who for many ‘only’ kick a ball, are giving families who are living through a trembling hell a reason to smile.

“Little superheroes”, this is how the Palestinian people make the players of their national team feel: “Every game we win, every goal we score is a way for them to continue talking about our country, I don’t even know how to describe it.“, explains, with a broken voice, Yaser Hamed, a footballer for the Palestine team. The defender spoke to El Periódico de España, from the Ibérica Prensa Group, after an unexpected team meeting, “They usually call us out of the blue and even more so before such an important match, we have a lot at stake,” he says. He is referring to this Monday’s match in which they face Qatara team that defends the title and which they are convinced of being able to win to get into the quarterfinals.

His strong point?: “We play with our heart, we put our soul into every play. We are resilient because we are representing families who have lost their loved ones.. When there are lives at stake and you see that despite everything they are attentive to what we do because they are very fond of football How are we not going to give our skin? You realize that you are here worried about something “nonsense”, because despite how important and special each game is, the real battle is being played by them. And you say ‘oh boy’ we can make people happy who have lost everything, what’s the least we can do is put our heads and our legs in and leave our skin on the grass.”

Athletic gave him “the best training”

Yasser Hamed nation in Bilbao. With a Palestinian father, who left the Gaza Strip to study medicine in Spain, and a Spanish mother, the player spent his entire childhood in Leioa, a town near the capital where he began to make his first passes. He Athletic Club He soon put his particular magnifying glass in search of Basque talent and joined their quarry.

There, he coincided with a generation of players for whom he predicted a promising future, of whom he has “good memories and a lot of affection”, since the center-back shared a locker room with footballers very established in our league such as Unai Simon, Villalibre o Unai Núñez. “The training you receive when you are a child marks your career and they gave me the best. I owe all that learning to them.“.

Yaser Hamed, footballer for the Palestine national team. INSTAGRAM @YASERHAMED_3

However, Yaser is an “inveterate adventurer”, and said goodbye to Spain in 2020 to establish himself as one of the highest-rated footballers in the Middle East. “I usually sign short contracts because I always trust in myself and try to improve the conditions every year.I have always been receiving offers and that is why I have been moving so much.” His first destination in this kind of oriental vital tour was the Busaiteen Club, in Bahrain.

From there, a year to Al-Masry in Egyptanother at Al-Rayyan Sports in Qatar, then I travel to Kuwaitwhere it didn’t take him long to pack his bags and months later he landed in India. Now he has just signed a contract with one of the best teams in the Middle East: “It will be made public in a few days“At 26 years old, at the moment he does not see himself settled in any club: “I terminated my contract in India because I was not happy. Maybe there comes a place where I say ‘I want to be here for several years’, but at the moment it hasn’t happened yet. “I go from adventure to adventure.”

From “thinking it was a joke” to horror at entering Palestine

Yaser, who combined football with his Degree in Chemical Engineering, was studying when he received a message from the Palestinian coach on Facebook. “I knew there was a chance they would call me, but I didn’t even consider it remotely because I didn’t know if they knew about me or not. So, when he wrote to me I thought it was a joke. I was in shock’ and I didn’t study more, of course,” recalls the footballer.

The conversation with the player, which is peppered with anecdotes and memories, changes from a happy and nostalgic tone to a voice full of fear when he remembers what his first call-up with the Palestine national team was like, recorded in his mind since 2019. For one On the other hand, it was “like any footballer would have dreamed” because In his debut he scored the winning goal against Yemen, in the WAFF Championship. On the other hand, the player entered into what he did not expect to be the most expensive adventure of his life: obtaining a visa to enter Palestine. “It was the first time he entered the country and it was crazy,” he explains.

The Palestine team before the match against Iran in the group stage of the Asia Cup. INSTAGRAM @YOUSIFALRASHIDI

His father’s family had told him, but he had “never traveled to an Arab country” and could not imagine the horror he would experience. “It’s hard for me to talk about this. They kept me for 7 hoursthey take your cell phone, they check it and They ask you a lot of questions that I prefer not to say because they are very hard and I don’t want to get into trouble. They put a lot of pressure on you and get all the information possible to make sure you are not a threat to the country. I had never experienced that before. Imagine, in a room alone, the first time you traveled to a country Arabic, I was very scared and things happened to me that I cannot tell, but that I will never forget.. Thank God it all turned into an anecdote and the following times it was easier to get in,” says the player.

“We have reasons to dream big”

After qualifying for the round of 16, the team “is calmer and feels less pressure, because The main objective was to pass the group“The entire locker room is ready, looking forward to getting the ball rolling this Monday (5:00 p.m.) and with the dream of continuing to expand their feat. The victory of Makram Daboub’s team Hong Kong (0-3) was the first since March 2023 (against Bahrain) and the four points in the group stage have placed them as one of the four best third parties in the continental tournament.

They have even been just one goal away from overcoming the United Arab Emirates (also with four points) and qualifying as second. Finally, she did it as third. In front of them they have Qatar, one of the best teams in the championship, which is also the host and current champion. Although it is something that does not scare them. In fact, they are already thinking about their rival in the quarterfinals: “I see the team motivated because if we pass this round the next one will be easier against in Uzbekistan o Thailand. So If we beat Qatar, in the next round we have reasons to dream big“.

The Palestine team in a qualifying match for the Asia Cup. INSTAGRAM @FIFAPALESTINE

The reasons to believe emerge every day in a locker room where they cling to their good play and their history in the competition. “We know that Qatar is the current champion, but we see ourselves capable of beating them. Anything can happen in a game.It already happened to us against the United Arab Emirates, which is a high-level team and with the expulsion of a player from their team we had many chances, we also missed a penalty and ended up tying (1-1) but convinced that it could have been a 3- 1 or a 4-1 if it weren’t for those small details. In the end It’s 90 minutes, we know their weaknesses and we will try to attack them there“says Yaser Hamed.

Feet on the grass and mind in Gaza

In a few hours, Palestinian fans will put aside the horror in which they are immersed to watch their team play. “If you knew the thousands of messages we receive from the Gaza Strip before each game, it is indescribable. Our strong point is that we are a family, a very human and united group who have known each other for many years and we help each other. to others because There are colleagues who live situations that are difficult to explainThat’s why I tell you that We give our souls to return the love to the Palestinian people“. They dedicate all their celebrations to them, with that particular ‘V’, which refers to victory and which “is a sign of freedom for the Palestinians.” They cannot help but feel responsible for what is happening in their country and it is That’s why those desires emerge from your insides “to continue making history and for the game to arrive to make all Palestinians happy“.

“Palestine is here, we are going to raise our voices for our people,” is what goes through the players’ heads before the referee’s initial whistle in each match. Because yes, they know it, they have been repeating it since they qualified, Qatar plays with 12, at home and with its fans. But Palestine plays with its thousands of inhabitants, resonating within them. Those who are and those who are not. Because the Palestinian population has attached that mantle of “superheroes” to them and they make Yaser Hamed “feel proud to defend the country of origin of your paternal family“. Because, in reality, this is a “secondary party.” The main one is being suffered by their families hundreds of kilometers away.

2024-01-29 11:50:23
#Palestine #Asia #Cup #lives #stake #give


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