O loved ones
Knock on wood
O loved ones
A clap and ululation
O loved ones
For the national team
Behind every story of failure, disappointment or heartbreak, there’s a humiliating reminder of how things could have been or how they were supposed to be. The ‘grand plans’, ‘high hopes’ and ‘bold aspirations’. The above lyrics stand witness to the utter mediocrity and uselessness of the Syrian national football in the last decade. I was seven years old listening to the above song playing on repeat on TV, celebrating our winning the Mediterranean football championship in 1987 after beating France (team B, I’d later come to realize). Since then, we might have hit the play button and knocked on the wood for the “under twenty” team when they won the Asian cop in ‘94. But that’s it. I picture the producer at Channel One holding the tape, flipping, juggling, kneading, while he wait hopelessly for the team to win something of note. But alas, after every opportunity we’d find that the tape had been returned back to archives, sullen and unused.
Today, at 8:15 UAE time, Syria is going to take on Saudi Arabia in the Asian cup tournament, which is taking place in Doha. This is our first participation in 15 years. The last one was in ’96 here in the UAE. I remember it like it was yesterday. Most notably because of some memorable moments: like when Hassan Abbas, our long-standing defender, whipped a spectacular header to score an own-goal. We ended up losing to China and Japan and barely beating the then feeble Uzbekistan to come third and get the hell out of there from first round.
Syrian football commentators have contributed to the uselessness of our national football by adding absolutely nothing in terms of critique or dispassionate assessment. According to them, it’s OK that our league is shitty, because we have to engage the budding talents from everywhere and give them exposure. Also according to them, it doesn’t matter that our forays into international football almost always end in humiliation, because, regard the full half, our players are getting international exposure!
Some may argue that corruption, nepotism and favoritism are what’s killing Syrian football. I’m not impressed with that argument. There are countries that are literally paralyzed with corruption and lawlessness-- countries that we’d be the embodiment of Utopia in comparison with-- and yet they give rise to amazing football teams.
I know we have the potential. I’ve seen the kids who play barefoot and kick and thrash and tackle on rough asphalt all day long until a stratum of rocks build on the soles of their feet. I was one of them for a brief period of my tortured childhood. At one point, I used to own 17 footballs, 16 of them would be deflated with patches of attempted repair here and there. When I hit puberty (relatively late), I was the flailing defender on the field you better watch out for. I trespassed on myriads of public
And I was not even among the best 50%.
Anyway. I have a modest wish for the Asian cup. After all, we have Japan and SA in the same group and there’s no room for wishful thinking. I just pray that:
1- No matter what the results are with either Saudi Arabia or Japan, please God, do not let us lose to Jordan.
2- No matter who competes for and then win the cup after Syria is sent packing, please God, do not let it be Australia.
Just don’t ask me why…