Al Wakrah, Qatar – It was an evening to recollect at Al Janoub Stadium – an evening that belonged to Palestine regardless of the consequence on the pitch.
The group’s noise, flags and numbers all have been within the favour of the staff that got here into the match with an AFC Asian Cup 2023 loss to its title and a relentless battle on its folks.
The unrestrained present of affection and assist for the war-struck nation started earlier than kickoff, elevated because the night time 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 towards the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Al Wakrah on Thursday night time.
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 group with waves and applause earlier than gathering in a huddle.
“The gamers will really feel a way of accountability tonight – they should be conscious that they’re carrying the hopes of a nation below battle,” Mariana al-Hindi, a Palestinian resident of Qatar, instructed Al Jazeera forward of kickoff.
“They’ll wish 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 blissful to see our nation represented and recognised at a giant occasion, however on the similar time, we’re heartbroken in regards to the scenario in Gaza,” Abdullah, her husband, stated.
Mariana al-Hindi, Abdullah and their daughter exterior the stadium [Hafsa Adil/Al Jazeera]
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 aim. 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 group picked up once more and urged the Palestinian staff to push for a aim and when Oday Dabbagh was hauled down in UAE’s field 12 minutes later, the group jumped up and pointed to the penalty spot.
The referee’s dismissal of the appeals was not taken effectively by the group, who willed him on to run a VAR verify.
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 didn’t 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 track Dammi Filastini (My Blood is Palestinian) blared from the PA.
The group was up on its dancing ft and singing alongside to the refrain – they have been all Palestinian for one night time.
When play resumed, Palestine regarded to take management of the proceedings with early strain and it bore fruit because the UAE scored an personal aim within the forty eighth minute.
Palestine didn’t care how the aim got here – they ran across the pitch in delight. Within the stands, it was pandemonium. Youngsters jumped on the seats, girls hugged one another and males let the tears movement when the ball went in.
“These gamers have been via rather a lot, all Palestinians have been via rather a lot, so this was a really particular second,” Yassine Abdullah, a Palestinian scholar, stated moments after the aim.
“Everybody noticed what onerous work, inspiration and assist did for Morocco on the World Cup. We hope this match can do the identical for our staff,” he stated as Palestine pressed for a second aim.
“We may very well be the Morocco of this match.”
Regardless of their relentless assaults, the 10-man UAE staff saved 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 environment that saved them going all the way in which till the top.
Assad Qusais, who watched the match together with his household, stated the lads in purple could have completed simply sufficient to maintain some hope alive.
“It relies on they play towards Hong Kong [in the last group match] however we may nonetheless make it as among the finest 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 staff replicated the same run.
The continental match and the match could not carry the burden of a World Cup, however the night time meant the world to the passionate Palestinian supporters.