Dozens of tables are occupied in the popular cafe in the center of Damascus, each of them looks at large screens hanging on the walls: the match of the opening of the World Cup, in which the Russian national team plays against the Saudi Arabian team, is being broadcast.
As the Russian national team scores goals, the fans shout louder and louder: first, then second …
One of the visitors of the cafe, Omar Mukhajir, says: “Of course, I support Russia, especially in this match, when it plays against Saudi Arabia.
Russia is an ally, and Saudi Arabia is an enemy, and I can not even imagine that I will be on the side of the state that takes such a position with regard to Syria, as Saudi Arabia does during the war years.”
In a nearby institution, waiters also monitor the match, and this does not prevent them from serving customers.
“Today, I certainly support the Russians, but in general I’m on the side of the Spaniards and I think that this year they will win the cup,” said one of the waiters, laughing, when asked what he is for in this championship.
A 30-year-old man who did not give his name said in an interview with Rasif22 that his choice in favor of the Russian team is not related to his political position: “In any case, the Saudi Arabian team does not mean anything to me, and I think that victory, at least today, will be won by our ally Russia.”
His speech was interrupted by loud voices from the cafe, where you can see on the screen how one of the Russian players beats at the opponent’s goal. “The strongest teams remain, and those that occupy the first positions are usually favorites for the Syrians,” our interlocutor continued.
No war this year
Unlike the previous football tournament in 2014, this time the inhabitants of Damascus are watching the World Cup away from the noise of the fighting that died down in this city last month.
The faces of many visitors to cafes and restaurants throughout the city are painted in the colors of the flags of countries participating in the football tournament, such as Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, Spain, four Arab countries qualified this year – Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia – and also Russia, Iran, Portugal and Japan.
The walls of some establishments are decorated with images of leading football players, one of which is the Egyptian Mohammed Salah, the most famous Arab football player this year. Other cafes are limited to hanging flags and posters that attract visitors to visit the institution and watch matches.
Weil works in a cafe near Al-Hassani east of Damascus. He expects that in the coming days in the cafe will be even more visitors looking to watch football matches.
“I missed the opening of the tournament that was held in the last days of the month of Ramadan, and on the first day of the championship there were not so many visitors. But after talking with some of them, I can say that there will be a lot of people here after the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, especially during the matches of strong teams, “said Weil.
Which Syrian nationals suffer the most?
The Russian team will join the list of favorites of the Syrians at the World Championships this year. Although the preference is given to the most famous and strong teams for which the Syrians are used to sick in recent years, football fans in Damascus are increasingly talking about the Russian team this year.
In the Al-Masakia market, where toys and stationery are sold and which is part of the traditional Al Hamidiyah market in the old Damascus, dozens of vendors put up flags of various countries participating in the tournament for sale. A small flag, fixed on a plastic stick, can be bought for two hundred Syrian pounds (about half a dollar), big – for two thousand pounds (four and a half dollars). You can also buy many other products, such as hats, headbands and colored scarves, which depict the flags of the participating countries of the championship.
The owners of the shops do not bother with appeals for buying their goods. Football in Syria is very popular, and the Syrian fans are beginning to prepare for the Championship a few days before the start. They buy flags and other symbols to decorate their balconies and cars and use them while watching matches in public places.
Some sellers laugh when they are asked, which team they will cheer for this year, as well as on the best-selling products. “I only cheer for Syria,” answers one of them. Another says: “For Argentina, of course, who else deserves the cup?”. The third seller claims that the preferences of the Syrians this year have not changed much, except for the tendency among some to cheer for Russia, Syria’s main ally, in order to avoid “problems” in his opinion: “I’m for a beautiful game, this is the best option.”
On social networking sites, we can also meet the manifestations of such views. Many Syrians replace their personal photos with photos of favorite teams, publish the corresponding texts: “Brazil forward”, “I support Egypt”, “Forward, blue” and others.
The Syrians are limited to doing publications in which they express support for a particular team. Sometimes the debate breaks out between those who view football only as a sport and those who associate it with certain political positions. On the first day of the match, Nagam Salman, residing in the Syrian coastal city of Tartus, decided to add a photo with a German flag to her page in “Facebook “. In an interview, the 30-year-old said she has been cheering for the German team for many years. This is the first time she decided to support her favorite team in social networks. She explains this by respecting Germany’s policy towards the Syrians, which opened the doors to a large number of refugees, and admires Germany as a nation that managed to recover economically, politically and socially after many years of war. Naham believes that ideology, social and even emotional factor began to play a significant role in the preferences of the Syrians in relation to the teams participating in the World Cup, especially this year. Abd, a resident of Aleppo, announced that he was rooting for the Brazilian team, no longer Deal back into your Facebook account. Despite this, on the first day of the tournament, he decided to make a publication in which he supported the Russian national team in the opening match. “I like the players of the Brazilian national team, especially Neimar, for me he is the best, but I see nothing wrong with being cheering for Other teams in matches in which Brazil does not play. I was cheering for Russia because it supported Syria all the years of the war, as well as for Egypt: this is one of the strongest Arab teams that have passed the qualification, “he explained.