Al Wakrah, Qatar – It was an evening to recollect at Al Janoub Stadium – an evening that belonged to Palestine regardless of the end result on the pitch.
The gang’s noise, flags and numbers all have been within the favour of the workforce that got here into the match with an AFC Asian Cup 2023 loss to its identify and a relentless warfare on its individuals.
The unrestrained present of affection and assist for the war-struck nation started earlier than kickoff, elevated because the evening wore on and quietened down solely when the final set of followers had left the stadium on the finish of Palestine’s Group C match in opposition to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Al Wakrah on Thursday evening.
Chants of “Free, free Palestine” went up in a crescendo when the gamers walked out of the tunnel and onto the pitch. The Palestinian gamers acknowledged the gang with waves and applause earlier than gathering in a huddle.
“The gamers will really feel a way of accountability tonight – they have to be conscious that they’re carrying the hopes of a nation beneath warfare,” Mariana al-Hindi, a Palestinian resident of Qatar, informed Al Jazeera forward of kickoff.
“They are going to need to put a smile on everybody’s face by doing effectively tonight,” she stated as she approached the turnstiles along with her husband and daughter.
“As Palestinians, we’re comfortable to see our nation represented and recognised at a giant occasion, however on the identical time, we’re heartbroken concerning the state of affairs in Gaza,” Abdullah, her husband, stated.
As soon as the match kicked off, the lads in purple have been willed on by a roaring crowd.
Each contact of the ball by a Palestinian participant was cheered and each time the UAE held possession the unabashedly partisan crowd loudly booed.
Palestine loved some early possession, however the UAE quickly settled right into a rhythm and started attacking the Palestinian objective. Their efforts bore fruit within the twenty third minute when Sultan Adil scored from a free header. The stadium fell silent for a second till a small contingent of Emirati followers started singing.
To not be deterred, the remainder of the gang picked up once more and urged the Palestinian workforce to push for a objective and when Oday Dabbagh was hauled down in UAE’s field 12 minutes later, the gang jumped up and pointed to the penalty spot.
The referee’s dismissal of the appeals was not taken effectively by the gang, who willed him on to run a VAR examine.
When a penalty was subsequently awarded to Palestine and Khalifa al-Hammadi was proven a purple card, the stadium stood as much as applaud the choice.
Tamer Sayem did not convert from the spot and the primary half ended with UAE nonetheless within the lead.
There was no let up in cheering throughout half-time, particularly when the intro to the music Dammi Filastini (My Blood is Palestinian) blared from the PA.
The gang was up on its dancing ft and singing alongside to the refrain – they have been all Palestinian for one evening.
When play resumed, Palestine seemed to take management of the proceedings with early stress and it bore fruit because the UAE scored an personal objective within the forty eighth minute.
Palestine didn’t care how the objective got here – they ran across the pitch in delight. Within the stands, it was pandemonium. Youngsters jumped on the seats, ladies hugged one another and males let the tears circulate when the ball went in.
“These gamers have been by way of so much, all Palestinians have been by way of so much, so this was a really particular second,” Yassine Abdullah, a Palestinian scholar, stated moments after the objective.
“Everybody noticed what arduous work, inspiration and assist did for Morocco on the World Cup. We hope this match can do the identical for our workforce,” he stated as Palestine pressed for a second objective.
“We could possibly be the Morocco of this match.”
Regardless of their relentless assaults, the 10-man UAE workforce stored Palestine at bay and held on for a 1-1 draw.
On the full-time whistle, the Palestinian gamers walked across the pitch to applaud their supporters for the electrical ambiance that stored them going all the way in which till the tip.
Assad Qusais, who watched the match together with his household, stated the lads in purple could have finished simply sufficient to maintain some hope alive.
“It relies on they play in opposition to Hong Kong [in the last group match] however we may nonetheless make it as top-of-the-line third-placed groups,” he stated with a shrug.
Abdullah, who in contrast the assist loved by Palestine to the backing Morocco loved on the World Cup, stated he would adore it if his workforce replicated an identical run.
The continental match and the match could not carry the load of a World Cup, however the evening meant the world to the passionate Palestinian supporters.