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In rebel-held Syria soccer teams in league of their own

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 01:48s - Published < > Embed
In rebel-held Syria soccer teams in league of their own

In rebel-held Syria soccer teams in league of their own

Syrian footballers who represented a number of local teams before the war now hold competitions of their own in rebel-held areas away from the Syrian football federation in Damascus.

Emily Wither reports.

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In rebel-held Syria soccer teams in league of their own

They say they represent free Syria and one-day hope to play for their country on the international stage.

Away from the regime in rebel held cities in northern Syria football season is underway.

Most of these teams are led by Syrian footballers who supported the Syrian opposition and abandoned their mostly Damascus-based teams. Now they're in a league of their own.

Youssef Rabie al-Hassan is one of them, a former footballer and now the current coach of the Manbij team.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FORMER FOOTBALLER AND COACH OF MANBIJ SOCCER TEAM, YOUSSEF RABIE AL-HASSAN, SAYING: "(Politics) definitely control the capital's teams until now and sports in general.

They mix sports with politics in an unprecedented way.

Any achievement, anything, or any goal scored by a player... the player would say we thank the political leadership and Bashar (al-Assad)." Funded by the Turkish government a football stadium is being built in the northern city of Azaz.

Turkey's army helped rebels capture it in 2016.

The rebel-held city is now home to a qualifiers competition between 22 newly-formed local soccer teams. Ten of which will be part of a new soccer league combining similar teams across rebel-held cities in the north.

Many hailed Syria's strong performance in World Cup qualifying matches in 2017 as a unifying moment for the country.

Two former dissident footballers returned to the national team for its campaign after years in exile.

But some opposition supporters identified the team with Assad's government, and declined to back it.

Many see this as more than just a game.

But the new league a step towards seeking international recognition away from the official Syrian federation.




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