Monday, June 17, 2024

Aussie cricket star Usman Khawaja speaks out ahead of Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier against Palestine – ‘playing a country that our government doesn’t even recognise’

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Aussie cricket star Usman Khawaja has sparked controversy ahead of the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier against Palestine on Tuesday, declaring ‘we are playing a country that our government doesn’t even recognise.’

Proudly Islamic, Pakistan-born Khawaja, 37, asked his followers on X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter – if the Socceroos ‘were playing nobody’.

It was a blunt reference to the Australian government refusing to officially recognise Palestine as a country due to the ongoing horrific scenes in the war-torn nation out of Gaza.

‘Can’t wait for this. Palestinian flags will be flying everywhere in HBF Park in Perth. 

‘And they can’t ban them. Likewise I’m confused how we are playing a country that our government doesn’t even recognise? Is this Socceroos v Nobody?

Aussie cricket star Usman Khawaja has sparked controversy ahead of the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier against Palestine , declaring ‘we are playing a country that our government doesn’t even recognise’

Proudly Islamic, Pakistan-born Khawaja, 37, asked his followers on X - the social media platform formerly known as Twitter - if the Socceroos 'were playing nobody'

Proudly Islamic, Pakistan-born Khawaja, 37, asked his followers on X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter – if the Socceroos ‘were playing nobody’

It was a blunt reference to the Australian government refusing to officially recognise Palestine as a country due to the ongoing horrific scenes in the war-torn nation out of Gaza (pictured, Palestine's football squad ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Lebanon)

It was a blunt reference to the Australian government refusing to officially recognise Palestine as a country due to the ongoing horrific scenes in the war-torn nation out of Gaza (pictured, Palestine’s football squad ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Lebanon)

‘It’s all very confusing,’ he posted on Tuesday.

Khawaja’s post garnered plenty of support online, with one follower declaring it was an ‘ironic situation.’

Another stated: ‘Well said Usman. I love that the [Palestine] flags will be everywhere.’

A third weighed in with: ‘Standing with humanity! C’mon Perth make that stadium red, white and green.’

Khawaja previously accused the ICC of double standards in 2023 after being denied permission to display a dove of peace on his bat for Gaza solidarity.

The ICC Code of Conduct forbids players from showing messages on their equipment without approval, especially for political, religious, or racial causes. 

However, Khawaja and his supporters argued that other players have been allowed to display such messages before including when West Indies players wore Black Lives Matter logos during a test series against England in 2020.

On the field, Graham Arnold’s men are already through to the next phase of qualifying after winning their opening five games and not conceding a goal.

The likes of Alessandro Circati, Gethin Jones, Martin Boyle, Mathew Leckie and Cameron Burgess are strong chances of earning a start against Palestine after not featuring against Bangladesh in Dhaka on June 6.

The away side – who have also already qualified – sit in second spot and remain on course to feature at the World Cup for the first time ever.

Midfielder Mohammed Rashid is well aware the performances of the national team offer much needed hope for locals in war-torn Palestine

Midfielder Mohammed Rashid is well aware the performances of the national team offer much needed hope for locals in war-torn Palestine

Their only loss has been to Australia – a 1-0 defeat in November – and midfielder Mohammed Rashid said playing in a World Cup would be the ultimate achievement for his squad.

‘People right now, this is the only thing they’re watching, this is the only thing that gives them hope – watching their national team advance and go on to the next rounds that we have never made before,’ he said.

‘So to us this is a big motivation to see the support that even with the war going on, we see pictures of people watching the games in Gaza and everywhere all over Palestine.

‘So this gives us a lot of hope. And hopefully this will keep us going, but we pray that everything will stop and peace will prevail in the area because really, it’s enough.’

It comes as more than 35,000 people are estimated to have been killed since Israel declared war on Hamas in Gaza in October.

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