For many Syrians, their national soccer teamâs last-gasp defeat at the hands of Australia on Tuesday was the end of a fairy-tale run.
After six years of brutal civil war, it looked for a short while thatÂ Syria might reach next yearâs World Cup for the first time in its history. But in the final minutes of overtime, the dream was snatched away.
For some Syrians, however, Australiaâs winning goal was a cause for celebration. They had spent every game during this qualifying campaign cheering Syriaâs opponents.
âMost people who are affected by this war donât want the Syrian team to win,â said Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a 32-year-old teacher living in western Aleppo.
âWe cannot call it the Syrian team, it is Assadâs team,â he added, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
More than 400,000 people have been killed and 5 million displaced in Syriaâs civil war, which began after the government used the army to put down mass protests against Assadâs rule.
The United Nations says the government hasÂ used chemical weaponsÂ more than two dozen times during the course of the war. Both rebels and government forces have been accused by rights groups of indiscriminate bombing âÂ the government on a much larger scale.Â
Some hoped that the teamâs World Cup run might bring the country together. Due to the security situation inside Syria, the team was forced to play their home games in Malaysia. They won a string…