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Asian Soccer Tournament Is Field Of Dreams For Palestine's Players - Yahoo News

Recommended: How much do you know about the Palestinians? Take our quiz The team qualified for the Asian Cup by beating the Philippines last May.Thousands turned out in the West Bank to welcome the players home after a victory that earned them their first-ever slot in Asias biggest soccer tournament, which started Friday in Australia . As the 115th-ranked team globally, a notch above Iraq, nobody expects Palestine to bring home a trophy. Its first game Monday is against Japan, ranked 54th and the tournament favorite. Butthe young men who charge down the field bearing the name of Palestine on their jerseys see themselves as much more than soccer players. Theyre nicknamedfedayeen, after the Palestinianresistancefightersofthe 1960s and '70s. All of the players feel that the national team is not a job, its a service for the homeland, says Mahmoud Sheikh Qasem, who started playing during the second intifada, or uprising, moving to indoor pick-up games when Israeli tanks were in the streets.We want to create a breakthrough, because people are waiting for a happy moment. At a time when Palestinian national aspirations have been stymied at the negotiating table, on the battlefield, and in the United Nations Security Council, the unprecedented success of itssoccer team is a rallying point and an international stage to score political points. For me, sport is a tool to achieve national aspirations, says Jibril Rajoub , president of the PFA, roosting in a plush leather chair in his spacious office in Jerusalem. And I think its also rational and realistic to use such a tool to realize national aspirations rather than use the violence of machine guns. WE ARE NOT A HATEFUL PEOPLE Mr.
Full story: http://news.yahoo.com/asian-soccer-tournament-field-dreams-palestines-players-120004262.html

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