Syrian star Omar Al Somah is still on cloud nine after his injury time goal against Iran sent his country into the Continental Playoffs against Australia and one step closer to an incredible World Cup appearance.
Al Somah’s 93rd minute equaliser at the Azadi Stadium caused wild celebrations amongst the players and Syrian fans the world over, with one commentator now famously reduced to tears, and the striker admitted that a week on he’s still watching the videos and looking at photos from the celebrations.
“(I have) all those photos and videos saved on my mobile and I look at them all the time,” he told FourFourTwo Arabia in an exclusive interview.
“It gives me a great morale boost, and hopefully we see these celebrations again.”
The 27-year-old, long regarded as one of Syria’s best players for his goal scoring exploits with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli, where he has scored 75 goals in 69 league games, was incredibly playing just his fifth game for his country after an absence of more than five years and the goal against Iran was his first for The Qasioun Eagles.
“This goal is very important to me because it’s my first international goal with my national team,” he said.
“It will not be forgotten in my career ever, and thanks to God I scored this goal that brings happiness and joy to all Syrian people, which they need and deserve.
“The celebration and joy was very clear on the faces of the players and all the staff. The celebrations started after the match, to the hotel, and continued from the hotel to the airport. It was a fantastic moment.”
Al Somah, along with captain Firas Al Khatib, was one of a group of players who refused to play for the national team after the civil war broke out in 2011, instead putting their support behind the rebel opposition.
Six years on and both Al Somah and Al Khatib have now returned to the national team set-up in the last few months, and while Al Somah refused to answer any questions about his change of heart – only answering, “since I was a child I was dreaming to wear the national jersey and represent my country and my people, it is a big honour,” – Al Khatib told ESPN recently his decision was “a football decision, not a political decision.”
With most observers of the view that just making it to the final round of qualifying was an achievement, few expected the Syrians to make it this far, especially given they are unable to play any matches inside the country, playing their matches over 7000km from home in Malaysia.
“Despite all the circumstances we proved to the whole world that Syrian players have the strength and persistence to overcome all the conditions,” Al Somah said.
“I’m certainly sad that we cannot play in our country and among our fans. We will make this a strength for us and prove to the world that Syrian people have the strength and capability to pass all obstacles.”
Despite the fact he only returned to the national team recently, Al Somah insists he was always confident the team would do well in qualifying.
“I was confident in the team because we’ve been playing together for 10 years, and I had a big feeling that this team will reach the advanced stages,” he said.
A two-legged playoff against Australia, who finished third in Group B behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, now awaits Al Somah and his teammates. While confusion exists as to where Syria will host the first leg on October 5, the marksman is confident they can get a win against their more fancied opposition.
“The Australian national team is one of the best national teams in Asia,” he said. “But football doesn’t know who is the best, it is judged on the field and I have big faith in all our players and God willing we can do it.”
With the prospect of playing at a FIFA World Cup tantalisingly close, Al Somah admitted he has dreamt about the possibility of playing in Russia next year.
“For sure I’m always dreaming of seeing my team in the World Cup, but we have to focus on the next two matches to make this dream become true.”
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