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Qatar's BeIN broadcasts 'fateful' Iran-Syria World Cup qualifier game for free Open in fullscreen

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Qatar's BeIN broadcasts 'fateful' Iran-Syria World Cup qualifier game for free

Qatar's BeIN sports network will broadcast Syria's match against Iran for free. [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 September, 2017

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Qatar's BeIN sports network will broadcast for free the Syrian football team's match against Iran - which could see the unlikely contestants from Damascus qualify for the World Cup.

Qatar's BeIN sports network has decided to broadcast for free the Syrian football team's match against Iran - which could see the unlikely contestants from Damascus qualify for the World Cup for the first time.  

The channel announced on Sunday that the pivotal game, which will kick off in Tehran on Tuesday evening, will be free to watch for football fans in the Middle East.

"BeIN Sports has decided the decisive match for Syria against its Iranian counterpart in the Asian qualifiers for the World Cup 2018 will be available on our open channel," BeIN sports' official Twitter account said​.

The decision from the Doha-based broadcaster comes after the Syrians beat Qatar 3-1 on Thursday in Malaysia, moving into third place in Group A of Asian qualifying.  

"Our team is ready to achieve victory and qualify Syria for the first time to the World Cup," Muwaffaq Fathallah, the chief administrator of the Syrian team, said by telephone from the Iranian capital ahead of the crucial game.

"We want the Syrian people to be happy."

'Team of the regime'

The devastating six-year conflict in Syria has ruined the country's football industry, with sports stadiums trashed and many of the national players moving to Arab or Asian countries to play.

The national team is made of regime-approved supporters, although at least one player, striker Firas al-Khatib, was an opposition activist.

Al-Khatib returned to Damascus last month for the first time in five years and received a VIP welcome at the airport.

He once said he would never play again for the government team until it stopped bombarding opposition-held areas.

Qualification for the World Cup could be a boost for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who is eager to project strength and normalcy as his forces continue to recapture territory across the country.

Opposition activists however are divided over the national team.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an activist based in the southern province of Daraa, said that he supports the team because "they are carrying the name of Syria."

He said will watch the game against Iran, as he did with previous ones.

But an opposition fighter in northern Syria who goes by the name of Abu Dardaa al-Shami said he has no respect for the national soccer team.

"This is the team of the regime, not the team of our nation," al-Shami said.

The politics of Syria's World Cup run has not been lost on anyone. For Syria to qualify for the tournament in Russia, its chief international ally, it must beat Iran, its regional backer.

On social media, some predicted that Iran, which has already qualified for the tournament, may let Syria win the match based on the political alliance of the two countries.

Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz rejected any match-fixing plans, with Iranian midfielder Ashkan Dejagah saying his team is determined to win.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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