Written by Ramsey Tesdell
When you ask football fans around the world who are some of their favorite teams, Jordan doesn’t usually make the list. But with a strong performance in Canada, the Jordanian national football team, playing in their first ever FIFA international tournament turned a few heads.
A full house was on hand in Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium as Jordan made history with their first ever FIFA U-20 World Cup point, after drawing a strong Zambian team 1-1 on Sunday 1 July in the opening game of Group B. Jordan fought through an early red card to earn a well-deserved tie against Zambia, a team laden with players from the French league.
The Jordanians then continued their tournament by frustrating Uruguay before going down 1-0 that could have easily ended 1-1.
Jordan, in impressive form frustrated the Latin American giants with their defending spirit and attacking hunger. Needless to say, it felt as if the nerves kicked in as shot after shot smashed off the post rather than going in the back of the net.
The upset against Spain, which many hoped for, never came. But after a showcase of talent, the Jordanian players were able to display their homegrown skills. Of the 21 players on the roster, all play in Jordan.
“It’s the wish of every player all over the world to be in a FIFA event,” said forward Mohammad Omar. “The whole country was delighted when we qualified for Canada.”
“We will fight to get the three points (need to reach the next round) also we will do our best to play good football for our fans at home and our good friends here in Canada,” said Baniyaseen.
Abdallah Salim was overjoyed after scoring Jordan’s first and historic goal in a FIFA tournament.
“Immediately after scoring, two thoughts came into my head: one was that this was the first goal Jordan had ever scored at a World Cup, and two that it was compensation for the red card and penalty that had been given against us, unjustly in my opinion, at the start of the game,” says the 19-year-old.
Salim has been playing his football for Jordanian outfit Al Wahdat since the age 11, but it is only in the last three seasons that he has been training with the first team squad.
In an interview given to Canada.com before the tournament began, Jordan’s coach, Jan Poulsen said that his team is facing an uphill battle on and off the pitch. He said they are also playing against many misconceptions held of Jordan.
Poulsen has been the coach of Jordan’s youth program since 2006 and has helped many countries reach a level many didn’t expect. Jordan’s team sent ripples through youth international soccer’s circuit by shocking China and advancing to the World Cup at the expense of China.
Jordan is the adopted home for many of the region’s refugees from Occupied Palestine and Iraq and lacks many of the financial resources available to Gulf Arab countries.
Poulson also said that language and cultural barriers pose challenges to his work. He speaks no Arabic and few of his players speak English, let alone Danish. So his assistant coaches interpret.
“To me, this is the most difficult assignment that I’ve had because of the language and the culture,” said Poulsen, who figures that Jordanian soccer was 10 years behind the Asian programs when he took over last year. “They’re completely different cultures and we train under very difficult circumstances. To me (reaching this tournament) is one of the great moments in my coaching career.”