A Note to Nashama: Reflect on your progress and appreciate your achievements:
Disclaimer: I am not a fan of the Jordanian national team, nor am I a hater. I am a mere neutral. I wouldn’t mind seeing the team (or any Arab national teams really) do well, but I do not expect it, nor spend sleepless nights dreaming of a historic quarter final game in Russia 2018 featuring Tunisia vs. Kuwait.
The Jordanian National Team played (showed up might be a better way to describe it by certain sections of the crowd) yesterday against Uruguay in the first leg of a World Cup qualifying play-off. The thought of such a game would have been laughable a year ago, around the time Jordan were in the middle of the final Asian qualifying group phase (Reaching that stage was an achievement on its own, let alone finish 3rd in a group with teams with superior resources, experience and footballing pedigree).
in a play-off game against the Uruguayan national team in Amman last night. The game ended in a 5-0 thrashing (by the way team, obviously) which all but sealed Uruguay’s progress to the next World Cup in old footballing foes Brazil and tendered the second leg in Montevideo a formality at most (Paring a miracle of epic proportions, and Uruguay fielding a 3rd string side suffering from the flu).
Looking at reactions of Jordanians on social media, at the stadium and where I was watching: A Liverpool pub in a dodgy Tecom hotel in Dubai of all places which felt like it was transformed (for a couple of hours at least) into one of Amman’s drinking spots, there was rising of tension, frustration and anger as the game unfolded. With every misplaced pass, with every foul conceded it was clear that there was a sense of expectation that has been let down by the performance.
People are labeling the performance as scandalous, shameful, pathetic and so on (Without getting into expletives), and the typical Arab criticism of the keeper for conceding soft goals (In all honesty the goals were not unstoppable). It is a problem that us as Arabs have sometimes, in big occasions like this we over-expect. We build up hopes and dreams and aspirations, not realizing that we are in reality languishing behind in world football. This has been the case since the turn of the new century really except in some rare occasions (Iraq’s memorable and emotional Asian Cup victory in 2007 springs to mind).
The Jordanian national team clearly punched above their weight throughout the qualifiers campaign. The group the team was in was not easy with Iraq and China. The final qualifying group was quite tricky and had it not been for Jordan’s great home form and determination, qualifying to play Uzbekistan (Another big result, beating them on penalties in their own backyard on penalties). What we as Jordanians and Arabs in general don’t understand is that this team did a fantastic job by qualifying to the Asian play-off, let alone reach the play-offs. It is worth reminding that other countries in the region with more resources such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE didn’t even make it past the initial group stages. These are countries who (what seems like eons ago) played in the World Cup.
Jordan’s National Team is not a shitty one. It’s not pathetic, it’s not shameful. It’s just been outclassed by one of the top sides in international football that is blessed with a talented crop of professional footballers playing at some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs. Other than the simple facts that they have a proper professional league, their clubs play in the Libertadores and their strike partnership yesterday probably earn in a fortnight what the whole Jordanian FA and the players make in a year. Just keep things in perspective, don’t bash the players. They have done a lot to get where they are, and you never know, perhaps this will be a massive learning curve for the team. The agony and the experience gained from this long journey will benefit them in the coming tournaments (Asian Cup for instance).
Ps. I am not big on the Nashama myself, I was actually skeptical they would even make it out of that group with China and Iraq, let alone finish 3rd ahead of Oman and Iraq in the final group round. I was impressed with the performances, however, it is important that we keep our feet on the ground and take things as they come. It is great to be patriotic and supportive of one’s country and its sporting representatives, but being fickle is not it. Anyhow, international football is overrated.
Here is an interesting Facebook status a good friend of mine shared about the game:
ما اظن انه في شعب نكد و متشائم اكثر من الشعب الاردني… ما لحق الشوط الاول يخلص، و النكت و السب بلشوا. و كل اللاعبين إنشل عرض أختهم على فيسبوك. يعني شوية تشجيع مش رح يأزي حد. الاوروغواي مش فريق قليل، و فوزه اكيد على اكثر فرق العالم. خلص… تباوسوا قبل ما اقوم أجيب القشاط…