AL-RAM, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian soccer team played to a 2-2 tie with Thailand on Thursday, ending a World Cup qualifying campaign that had become a symbol of nation building.
This was the Palestinians' highest-profile game played on home soil. The team was a big long shot to make it to the tournament in Brazil in 2014, but a victory over Afghanistan in the first round provided hope.
The Palestinian team is the only one of FIFA's 208 members that is not a U.N. recognized state. Its players often need Israeli permits to travel — either to cross Israel from Gaza or to enter or leave the West Bank.
More than 5,000 fans began chanting "Palestine, Palestine" after Murad Eleyan put the home team ahead 1-0 in the third minute.
Thailand's Datsakorn Thonglao tied it in the 33rd minute and Eleyan restored the Palestinians' lead in the 90th minute. Thonglao evened the score again with a goal in stoppage time, and fans responded by pelting the field with water bottles.
The Palestinians lost the opening away leg 1-0. Thailand reached the third round of the Asian qualifiers with a 3-2 total-goals victory.
"We are very disappointed because we wanted to win and qualify, but we have played against a strong team," Palestinian coach Musa Bazaz said. "We started very well, but in the second half we were not good at the beginning. At the end we scored a goal, but we were very late."
Younis Abu-Lail, a 17-year-old fan, left the stadium in tears.
"I came here with a dream that Palestine would qualify," he said. "It would have been good for us."