Bringing joy to war-torn Syria

Bringing joy to war-torn Syria
Syria striker Sanhareb Malki is heartened by the messages of support his countrymen have sent to the team via social media.

He is the man tasked with spearheading Syria's attack, and, at 29, is already a veteran on a team whose average age is 25.

Yet, vice-captain and striker Sanhareb Malki has set foot in his home country only once in the last three years - and only for one day.

One can hardly blame him. Since 2011, Syria has been embroiled in civil war, as reports of chemical attacks on civilians, suicide bombings and torture continue to plague the country.

More than 110,000 people are believed to have died in the ongoing conflict.

The unrest back home has forced Malki to move his family to Jordan and Turkey, where he plays for football club Kasimpasa.

Nevertheless, he hopes that victory against Singapore in tonight's 2015 Asian Cup qualifier will provide a brief respite for his countrymen back home.

He said: "Many people in Syria love football. We know if we win, they will be happy. Anything that makes them happy will be good for them in this moment."

Interaction between the Syrian national team and their supporters have been limited.

Home matches are played in Iran due to security issues, while 20 players in the current squad of 23 ply their trade overseas.

Syria coach Anas Makhlouf lamented that he had only four days to prepare the squad in Lebanon for tonight's match, before flying to Singapore.

The former Syria international said: "It's difficult to make arrangements to train together (as a team) for a long time."

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