The 7-0 win over Bangladesh in Melbourne last week was about as smooth as possible a start to World Cup qualifying for the Socceroos, but this week’s follow up is set to be anything but that. The Socceroos have landed in a troubled Middle East, where they take on Palestine in a game that has been moved to the neutral venue of Kuwait due to the Israel-Hamas war.
Palestine have not played at home since 2019 and are no strangers to disrupted preparations. But they had been scheduled to play Australia in the West Bank city of Ramallah before the 7 October attacks, during which Hamas killed 1,200 people and took more than 240 people hostage. Since then, 13,000 residents of Gaza have been killed in the Israeli offensive and vast swaths of the territory have been reduced to rubble.
The game in Ramallah would probably have been the biggest to have taken place in Palestine since it became a full Fifa member in 1998. Given the difficulties in getting out of Gaza and the West Bank, Palestine had been training in Jordan since 24 October to ensure they could physically get to their upcoming games. Not all could. Ibrahim Abuimeir, Khaled Al-Nabris and Ahmed Al-Kayed are stuck in Gaza. Many of those who did report for duty are preoccupied with the safety of their friends and family there, as well as in the West Bank.
“Of course, they are worried about the situation and are watching the news in the hotel or on their phones all the time,” Palestine coach Makram Daboub told Guardian Australia in the buildup to Tuesday’s game (Wednesday AEDT). “They are all anxious. They are doing their best but it is not easy.”
Mentally, there are issues but the team are preparing as best