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Assad autographs shirts of Syria’s national football team

Published: Updated:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wrote his name and signed the chests’ of the Syrian national football team during a reception at the presidential palace in Damascus.

On October 23, the official Facebook page of the “Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic” published a photograph of Assad, writing his name and signing the players' chests.

The players of the professional Syrian teams in the Arab and Asian leagues arrived to Damascus on Sunday, in order to be "honored" with a ceremony to be held in al-Fayhaa Hall in Damascus, led by Firas Al-Khatib and Omar Al-Suma.

The Syrian team reached the Asian qualification for the World Cup for the first time in its history, but lost against Australia following the 2-1 defeat on October 10.

Syrian public opinion was divided over whether to encourage or abstain from supporting the national team. The supporters of the regime and some of the opponents considered that the team represented all the Syrians, not just the regime, and spoke of the need to separate politics from sports.

While others considered it to be the regime that exploited the football team politically, calling it the "barrels team", in reference to the explosive barrels that the regime uses to bomb the opposition.

Some considered that Assad's reception of the players as reinforcing the assumption that the team is an integral part of the regime and that politics is not separated from sports in Syria.

The President of the General Sports Federation, Muwaffaq Jumaa, also met with the players of the team in the presence of the President of the Football Federation, his deputy and the technical and administrative staff.