Image 1 of 10: King’s speech: "Whatever the result of this week’s match, I’m proud of the players and hope their efforts will pay off," King Abdullah said on the daylong telethon that raised 1.9 Jordanian dinars.
Image 1 of 10: The famous “inshallah”: Coach Hossam Hassan is notorious for changing the line-up at the last minute. Apparently, “Inshallah” change-ups do not go over well with the players.
Image 1 of 10: It goes without saying that Jordan does not have much of a legacy of football history to fall back on unlike its Latino La Celeste opponents (two time winners of world cup, 1930, 1934 and third placers in 2010 -- Copa America current title holders to boot). For the humble Hashemites, this is the first decent stab at final qualifiers.
Image 1 of 10: No pressure, Jordan, but the weight of the Arab world and thick pride! "Jordan are the last Arab team representing Asia. It’s an Arab effort and not a Jordanian effort," said Hassan, a former striker who led Egypt in the 1990 World Cup.
Image 1 of 10: Fast & furious: Liverpool and Uruguay’s shared treasure striker, Luis Suarez, has experienced Jordan’s 'speedy' players: ‘Jordan has fast outfield players and if you leave space, they could show their quality.' (They left scant impression on Suarez who admits remembering little of his run-in with JO's under-17 national squad back in 2007.)
Image 1 of 10: Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay's manager on the home advantage: “If Jordan...takes advantage of its status as the home team, it will make things hard for us, and I’m not being optimistic or cautious”. Team Jordan's got the grit factor-- what they lack in elite players they make up for in steely passion for first-time glory.
Image 1 of 10: Ace in the hole, or rather finger in the hole: Fernando Muslera of Uruguay is out due to a broken finger and might just be an element in the game that can be exploited by team Nashama.
Image 1 of 10: Traffic in Amman just got a little more interesting with roads filled with street-sellers ready to exchange your dinars for the latest fan gear to prepare you for tonight’s game! Football mania is clogging up Jordan’s already heaving streets, swollen already with a growing population supporting refugees and old-time immigrants).
Image 1 of 10: Who to watch out for in tonight’s match from the JO side? Jordan’s Ahmed Hayel has won the hearts and minds of football fans nationwide... Don't expect to see goalie Ahmed Shafi who has been suspended. Spare a thought for Mohammad Shatnawi who, at 28 with only 3 caps, faces two formidable strikers in Cavani and Suarez.
Image 1 of 10: Who should we be looking out for on the Uruguay side? Beyond Suarez, La Celeste has the sturdy experience of veteran captain Diego Lugano in the back, along with Martin Caceres - Right Back for Juventus --who will be working his magic on the right flank.
Jordan may rank 60 places beneath Uruguay in the FIFA world rankings, but today will see 11 brave Nashama players take on their 11 celestial counterparts on a level playing field. The two teams are due to come head to head in Amman today as they battle it out in this charged play-off for a place in the World Cup. Will Jordan buckle under the pressure of the hopes of a nation as well as a region, or will these plucky underdogs (survivors of the Arab Spring fever) show their mettle against all the odds?
This is a match that has captured the attention and hopes of Jordanians looking for a victory that could help their nation qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in history. If Jordan were to move into the World Cup finals, they would be the only Middle Eastern team since Saudi Arabia and Iraq have both already fallen off the competitive wagon in this edition’s qualifiers.
All the King’s men
Jordan’s blades of glory are hanging in the balance in tonight's portentous performance - a lot of hopes and national pride are riding on the Hashemite effort. Jordanian flags are draped across Amman cars, streets and edifices, and traffic is worse than usual -- it can only mean one thing...football! The go-to conversation topic of the week, Jordanians are fiercely proud of “Nashama” (their nickname for their national team) and turn up at the stadium in their thousands -- pictures of children clambering over their fathers’ shoulders with patriotic face paint become instantly symbolic in Amman.
National pride in Jordan is particularly poignant at this time -- the stoic nation has ridden the Arab Spring storm and remains unified in the face of external threats. Football is one of the celebrated occasions in the Kingdom when its diverse population of refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq come together with their hosts to cheer on Nashama.
As every great sport love story goes, it’s always about more than just the game. Global support is ringing out on social media in support of #gonashama and #believeinjordan. The second leg of the qualifier will be in Montevideo, so there's always 'away'....
From Al Bawaba to Al Nashama: Yallah Al Urdun!