Thousands of Syrians thronged the capital Damascus’ main square and streets, celebrating their national football team’s draw with the battlefield ally Iran in the World Cup qualification match. The game ended 2-2, when striker Omar al-Soma slid a magical equaliser in the 93rd minute under the Iranian keeper on Tuesday, reports Xinhua news agency.
With South Korea and Uzbekistan drawing 0-0, the 2-2 result gives Syria a third-place finish and a playoff spot in the six-team Group A of Asian qualifying.
Syria will play two matches against Saudi Arabia.
Even though the chances are now slim, but the draw in Tuesday’s match revived hopes that the national team could qualify for the next year World Cup in Russia, which would be the first qualification in the history of the Syrian football.
In the Ummayad Square in the heart of Damascus, thousands of people watched the game on giant screens setup for this specific event.
In public parks, people also gathered to watch the game.
Crackles of celebratory gunshots reverberated after the match as an expression of happiness.
“We were wishing to beat Iran in this game to directly qualify, but the draw is acceptable as it gives us hope that our dream is not dead yet,” Muhammad Salem, a Syrian state employee, told Xinhua at the Jala’ sports club in Mazzeh neighborhood.
Holding Syrian flags and wearing T-shirts of the Syrian national team, people jumped and danced on the rhythm of national songs, as cars honked their horns in happiness.
“It’s a happy moment we have long been waiting because we deserve to be happy after all these years of war,” Kinda, a Syrian journalist, said.
Anas Joudeh, the head of the Nation Building Movement, said the game is a chance for all Syrians to unite, at least for the two hours of the game time.
“We wish to win the game, but the real victory is when we can agree on one thing …,” he posted on his official Facebook page.
Not only Joudeh, but most of the Syrians saw this event as uniting.
Opposition activists and loyalists have finally united on one thing, which is their hope for the Syrian team to win, with some activists posting supportive photos of the national team.
The stage to which the Syrian footballers have reached in the recent games is against all odds, with the difficulty of the training and the lack of good atmosphere with their country being ripped by a seven-year war.
“Today we have two victories, the first one when the army broke the Daesh siege on Deir al-Zour and the second is the results of the match,” Kevork, a university student, said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS).
Earlier in the day, the Syrian army with the help of the Russians and Iranian-backed allies lifted the year-long siege on Deir al-Zour city and advancing toward ridding the city of the IS militants.