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Syrian coach offers more support for Assad after victory

Reuters , Tuesday 17 Nov 2015
Fajr Ibrahim
Syria coach Fajr Ibrahim (Photo: AFP)
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Syria coach Fajr Ibrahim dedicated his side's World Cup victory over Singapore on Tuesday to embattled President Bashar al-Assad and his compatriots in the war-torn country in another news conference with political edge.

Omar Kharbin scored his second in the 93rd minute at the National Stadium in Singapore to seal a 2-1 win that ensured the West Asians would finish at least second in the table after their fifth victory in six games.

Ibrahim wore a white t-shirt of a smiling Assad to a pre-match news conference on Monday but his white shirt was well covered by a team tracksuit before, during and after Tuesday's match.

"This win is a gift for Syrian people...to make them happy," Ibrahim told reporters.

"It is very important. Also for our President Mr Assad."

Security as Tuesday's match was increased in the wake of Friday's attacks in Paris where at least 129 people were killed in shooting and bomb attacks on restaurants, a music hall and a sports stadium in the French capital.

A period of silence was observed before kick-off in Singapore for the people who were killed in Paris and a former Singapore Football Association official who died this week.

Ibrahim said he wanted a similar tribute for the estimated 250,000 Syrians that had been killed in the four-year-old conflict which has driven more than 11 million from their homes.

"We stand now for 30 seconds for French but all Syrian people killed and nobody stands for one second, you have to know this," he said before a Singapore Football Association official cut him off asking for no political comments.

"He asked, I answered," an angry Ibrahim fired back at the official.

FIFA rules say no political messages are allowed during matches.

Syria, who have never qualified for a World Cup and play their home games in Oman because of the ongoing conflict, are one point behind Japan in Group E with only a home game against winless Cambodia and trip to the Samurai Blue to come in March.

Only the eight group winners and four best runners-up will progress to the 2019 Asian Cup and third round of World Cup qualifiers but Ibrahim believed his side had done enough.

"It was a hard game but we qualify for Asian Cup and (the next stage of) World Cup (qualifying)," he said prematurely.

"Now we are one of the best 12 teams in Asia. That is very great, considering the situation in Syria." 

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