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With a smile etched on his face despite a closely bandaged head, Palestine’s Oday Dabbagh strode by the blended zone following his staff’s slim 2-1 defeat to Qatar on Monday.

A few meters away from Dabbagh, midfielder Mahmoud Abu Warda disdainfully said “we didn’t need to lose, the referee didn’t do us justice with the penalty kick (awarded to Qatar).”

For all his success, the Charleroi attacker has made it some extent to keep away from the limelight in Qatar. When a journalist known as out to him from the scrum of the blended zone, “Oday, Oday! Palestine’s star,” the Jerusalemite responded by clicking his tongue disapprovingly.

“Palestine has 26 stars,” he mentioned in a curt however pleasant method earlier than escaping to the secure confines of the staff bus.

Earlier than turning 25 two months in the past, Dabbagh notched 100 objectives for his golf equipment within the Palestine, Kuwait, Portugal and Belgium high flights. For context, there’s not a single participant taking part on the 2023 AFC Asian Cup that has scored extra at membership stage earlier than turning 25.

The ahead has been hooked on scoring objectives from a younger age. After making his skilled debut as a 16-year-old for Hilal Al-Quds he wasted no time in scoring his first aim for his hometown aspect. That first strike got here 23 days after his seventeenth birthday and was essential in serving to one in every of Palestine’s oldest sides keep away from the ignominy of relegation.

Classes discovered in that first season as an expert have served Dabbagh properly.

“After I first acquired promoted to the primary staff I simply didn’t make a giant deal of it. I simply didn’t put myself beneath strain — the character of my character helped — I’ve all the time been a relaxed individual. So once I began taking part in and scoring within the league I simply by no means noticed my opponent as being higher than me,” he advised Arab Information.

Lower than three years later after making his nationwide staff debut and taking part in on the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, Dabbagh was off to Kuwait.

“Being part of that squad and taking part in essential minutes towards Australia and Jordan gave me confidence. Our youthful gamers like Zaid Qunbar and Samer Zubaida from the Olympic staff who performed at (the 2023 Asian Cup) may also assist them and be a lift to their confidence.”

In lots of a Jerusalem family they’re speaking about their native son who now performs for Charleroi in Belgium’s high tier. Each match Dabbagh has performed since leaving his hometown in 2019 has been intently watched by Palestinian soccer followers.

His begin to life overseas didn’t go as deliberate — early success was interrupted by a damaged collarbone and a contractual dispute with Al-Salmiya that noticed him void his contract to signal for rivals Al-Qadisiya.

The ahead examined optimistic for COVID-19 in the summertime of 2020 and Al-Qadisiya had a forgettable season. The choice was made to herald new overseas gamers to the staff. Dabbagh was loaned out twice and it was within the tail finish of that mortgage stint when Dabbagh actually hit his stride. 13 objectives in 18 video games for Al-Arabi made him high scorer of the league and gave the aspect their first title in over twenty years all because of a participant on mortgage to them from their greatest rivals.

As a free agent, Dabbagh eschewed extra profitable provides in Kuwait to strive his luck in Europe. The primary cease was Portugal the place 4 objectives in his first season helped Arouca keep away from the drop. He then hit 11 objectives in his encore season main the modest aspect from the Aveiro District to a UEFA Convention League berth.

Regardless of hitting 15 objectives in 17 begins, a contractual dispute noticed Dabbagh signal on a free company with Charleroi at first of the season. The Palestinian is presently the staff’s high scorer with 5 objectives in 19 matches throughout all competitions. 

Dabbagh parlayed that kind into a shocking Asian Cup, inspiring his staff to the knockout stage for the primary time of their historical past. Palestine acquired off to a rotten begin within the continental showpiece happening 1-0 to Iran after simply 70 seconds. The staff was down by three after 38 minutes en path to a crushing 4-1 defeat.

Palestine have been much-improved towards the UAE of their second sport however discovered themselves a aim down midway by the primary half. Palestine received a penalty kick after Dabbagh was introduced down within the field by Khalifa Al-Hammadi. Tamer Seyam missed the following spot kick however the staff discovered an equalizer within the second half and have been unfortunate to not translate their statistical dominance into three factors as an alternative of 1.

That meant Palestine confronted a win-or-go-home match towards Hong Kong. The situation was much like the one the staff confronted going into their final group stage sport on the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup. This time although Palestine romped to a 3-0 victory.

Did Dabbagh and his teammates really feel the strain?

“So far as the Hong Kong sport is anxious I simply tried to maintain issues mild. Stick with my group of mates and chat about something however the sport,” Dabbagh mentioned.

“I simply attempt to do my greatest. I am going into the sport and do what’s requested of me. Studying stuff within the press is ineffective, it’s going to simply put you beneath strain. The staff was tremendous centered going into the sport and we performed very well which gave us a great consequence.”

The win over Hong Kong featured a brace from the Charleroi ahead. So resounding was their victory, the staff was set to advance to the spherical of 16 as runners-up within the group just for a late aim by the UAE of their 2-1 loss to Iran that compelled them to accept third place.

With the background of the continuing warfare and genocide in Gaza, Dabbagh and the remainder of the staff felt a novel accountability to carry a modicum of reduction and pleasure to the Palestinian individuals.

Each aim scored has featured muted celebrations highlighted by the gamers holding their arms crossed above their heads.

That was the case once more when Dabbagh bamboozled the Qatari protection to offer Palestine a shock lead towards the hosts and holders.

“It was a mixture of feelings, a cross between happiness for scoring and disappointment for what is going on in Palestine — you’ll be able to always remember about that,” he mentioned.

Regardless of the loss, Al-Fida’i’ve not let their heads drop and are actually centered on 2026 World Cup qualifying.

“That is simply going to push me to attain extra objectives with the nationwide staff,” mentioned Dabbagh.

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