I don't usually comment on, watch or care about football championships for clubs. I sometimes watch the odd Champions League game if I happen to be at a coffee shop while it's on. But other than that, I have no interest whatsoever.
But this strikes very close to home. In fact, it strikes right at home. Al Ittihad, the football team of my hometown, Aleppo, had qualified to the finals of the Asian Federation Cup by beating Muang Thong (kid you not) of Thailand 2-0 at the second leg of the semi final (and 2-1 by aggregate).
Alright, it's not the world cup. But Asia is still Asia: Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabi, Iran and China. And having observed the trajectory of Al Ittihad so far, it looks like their reaching the finals isn't a coincidence or a fluke of luck, there was an awful lot of hard work involved. Good on them.
On the other hand, I felt goosebumps all over when I watch the game: 70,000 strong fans crowded the (relatively) new Aleppo Stadium. Chanting like maniacs. No doubt, there's one religion in Aleppo these days, and it's Al Ittihad.