Palestine-Iran Asian Cup game overshadowed by Gaza war

Palestine-Iran Asian Cup game overshadowed by Gaza war
Fans in Qatar's Education City Stadium held a minute's silence for the victims Gaza, with spectators chanting for the freedom of Palestine throughout the game.
3 min read
Iran won the match 4-1, yet the game was overshadowed by fans' support for Gaza and the Palestinian cause [Getty/file photo]

Pleas for peace and sporadic pro-Palestinian demonstrations were on display in Doha on Sunday as the team's opening match of the Asian Cup against Iran fell on the 100th day of the devastating war in Gaza.

The 27,619 fans inside the Education City Stadium paused for a moment's silence for the victims of the war, with a solitary shout of "Free Palestine" from one fan cutting through the quiet.

Supporters draped in keffiyeh scarves and the red, white, green and black Palestinian national flag clasped shoulders during their national anthem.

Outside the stadium, a mostly festive atmosphere among fans belied anger over the Israel's war in the territory, with a small demonstration of dozens of supporters breaking into chants of "Palestine, Palestine" in the fan-zone.

Israel's military onslaught has killed close to 24,000 since October 7, with thousands more feared trapped under rubble.

Youssef Nasser Issa, a biomedical engineer from Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, said attending the game was "the least we can do for our country".

"May God help us in Gaza and Palestine, and God willing, we can win today," said the 28-year-old, clutching a Palestinian flag around his shoulders.

Lana Anshasi, another Palestinian, told AFP she was in shock from the daily scenes of carnage in Gaza.

"I cannot handle what I'm watching in the media you can see it's terrifying for the people in Gaza," she said.

The 23-year-old, who now lives in Qatar, said she hoped "the world could wake up".

"We should (have a) ceasefire, and it's not happening," she added.

'Stop the war'

Pro-Palestinian sentiment has led to sporadic and short-lived protests in Qatar where political demonstrations are rare.

In the first half of the match, which Palestine lost 4-1, scores of Iranian supporters led chants of "death to Israel" in Arabic.

The same group also chanted "Palestine, Palestine", also in Arabic.

Before the game, Nasser Harandi, 15, from Tehran said he was hoping for an Iranian victory in Doha but also hoped attending the game would "help stop the war in Gaza".

"I'm saddened by it deeply," Harandi said of the war.

"But I feel like coming here is also helping the Palestinians raise a voice against the war in Gaza," he added.

Laith Saleh, a Palestine fan from Ramallah, said his family were in a "scary situation" with violence and arrests in the West Bank.

"My feeling is that I am proud to support my country and I hope that the war will stop, but as you can see, we can do nothing," he added.

But despite the mounting toll of the war, Palestinian-Jordanian Osama Almwajah said seeing large numbers of Palestinian fans heading to the game felt "amazing".

"I know that no matter where I go, I can find another Palestinian no matter where I am," the 29-year-old added.