Yemen begin campaign under cloud of war

Yemen captain Salem Awad speaking during pre-match media conference for  2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualification Round 2 Group D match between Singapore and Yemen on Sept 4, 2019.
Yemen captain Salem Awad speaking during pre-match media conference for 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualification Round 2 Group D match between Singapore and Yemen on Sept 4, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Yemen will not be easy pickings even if a civil war between the government and the Houthi armed movement has destroyed the May 22 Stadium in Aden - forcing the national football team to play their home games in Bahrain.

According to sports website Deadspin, national players Ali Gharaba and Abdullah Aref were shot dead by Houthi forces in 2015. The BBC reported that the Yemenis often have to find other jobs to supplement their meagre football allowances in the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula.

And still, the Red Devils managed to qualify for the Asian Cup for the first time earlier this year, even if they failed to score and conceded 10 while losing to Iran, Iraq and Vietnam in the group stage in the United Arab Emirates.

Singapore coach Tatsuma Yoshida identified attackers Ahmed Al-Sarori, who played in Brazil's fourth division with Central-PE, Ahmed Dhabaan, and Abdulwasea Al-Matari as the danger men.

Many of the Yemenis play in Qatar, while local-based players take part in ad hoc tournaments.

Aiming to repeat the Asian Cup miracle, when they qualified behind the Philippines in a group including Tajikistan and Nepal, Yemen coach Sami Hasan Al Hadi said: "We are suffering. There is no football league for the last five years due to the war.

"This has affected our performance and preparations but with the emergence of some young players, we have coped well.

"Our ambitions are big and we are looking for a positive result against Singapore."

Yemen captain Salem Awad added: "We were so happy to make history for the right reasons by qualifying for the last Asian Cup, and we hope we can start this campaign well to bring cheer to our country by qualifying for China 2023."

David Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline 'Yemen begin campaign under cloud of war'. Print Edition | Subscribe