History has often proved that some of the greatest triumphs can emerge from adversity. This phenomenon was never closer to the truth than in Kuwait on Thursday evening, when the Syrian national team won the West Asian Football Federation Championship for the very first time.
In a case of sport imitating real life, Syria’s supporters were split into two distinct camps during the final against Iraq, an unorthodox situation which did not prevent the Red Eagles from claiming a closely contested 1-0 victory via a goal from Ahmad Al-Salih.
Mosab Balhous and Hamdy Al-Masry, two key players for Syria during the regional competition, shared their thoughts with FIFA.com after the match. “It’s the first major tournament that Syria have won, and given our preparation for it, which lasted about a month, it’s an achievement that can’t be underestimated. As team captain, I was extremely proud to lift the trophy,” said Balhous.
Thursday’s showdown was not the first final of the 29-year-old goalkeeper’s career, however. At club level, he was part of the Al Karama sides that reached the finals of the 2006 AFC Champions League and the 2009 AFC Cup. On both occasions, he had to content himself with a runners-up medal, which appeared to further increase his joy at securing the WAFF Championship crown.
“We were more determined than ever to win. We weren’t lacking in confidence, and had a feeling after our semi-final win over Bahrain that we could go all the way,” he explained.
I’m hopeful that my team-mates who play in Syria did enough to show that they could do a job in other leagues.
The Syria No1, who saved three penalties in the shoot-out that decided that last-four clash, emphasised that the team was determined to use the landmark result to bring people together back home, before revealing that he is now considering retiring from international football on the back of this success.
Balhous was not the only Syrian to make his mark on the event. Midfielder Hamdy Al-Masry’s outstanding performances saw him named Player of the Tournament, and he was also keen to underline the importance of his team’s accomplishment.
“We’ve been on good form right from the start, despite bringing in a large number of new faces. Hosam Al-Sayed and his backroom staff have worked hard to make us all gel together. I hope this leads to similar feats in the future,” he said.
Al-Masry put pen to paper with Iraqi outfit Al Nafit at the beginning of this season, and is one of three Syrian internationals currently playing abroad. As far as he is concerned, the WAFF Championship was a golden opportunity to show how much progress his country’s national side has made recently.
“From a personal point of view, I had a good tournament, and I thank God for our victory. I’m hopeful that my team-mates who play in Syria did enough to show that they could do a job in other leagues. That kind of move would be beneficial for them as well as for the national team,” he said.
Whether Al-Masry’s wishes become a reality or not, Syria’s maiden WAFF Championship success will live long in the memory of players and fans alike.