Asian Cup Diary - Day 4: Feel good stories

It’s a widely accepted idea that Mondays are generally the worst days of the week. To work full-time Monday to Friday and then only to get those two days off during the weekend to let loose is a tough life.

And although sports journalism is recognised as the job dreams are made of (it’s an unbiased truth, of course…), most journos (if I do say so myself…) loathe waking up early on a Monday morning to prepare for yet another gruelling five days or so.

Curiously, there was a distinctly different feel to this particular one (I guess ditching the beers for some charcoal chicken the night before helped). The top hit makers of the morning were all ‘feel good’ stories, which made for a highly captivating day four of action.

First up: the 12-year-old Brisbane ball boy who has become China’s unlikely hero.

The ball boy, by the name of Stephan White, became a lucky charm for the side while he was helping out in China’s match against Saudi Arabia up in Brisbane.

Going in as underdogs, the Chinese would’ve been lucky to leave Queensland with a single point, let alone three, and they apparently have this young lad to thank.

According to the report, when birthday boy Wang Dalei prepared himself to face the looming spot kick, he consulted Stephan as to which side to dive for. The 12-year-old indicated to the left and without hesitation, Wang Dalei did as he was told, saving the penalty and China ultimately snatched a 1-0 win.

The AC Diary can officially confirm that the young boy is now being groomed as a future goalkeeping coach.

Elsewhere, attentions quickly switched to the upcoming matches of the day, in particular Japan vs Palestine.

But instead of dwelling on the fact that reigning champions Japan were about to begin their campaign with a squad full of star players, media outlets opted to report on the ‘feel good’ story that is Palestine’s qualification against all the odds.

“Proud to just get on the field” was just one of many sombre, yet hopeful, headlines to flood public sphere.

Indeed, the Palestinians deserve such respect for their resilience. Living without fear knowing that we will return to our families safely at the day’s end is something that many of us take for granted.

So what was rather striking was when midfielder Abdelhamid Abuhabib gave us a glimpse of life as a Palestinian: “We’re the only nation here at the Asian Cup that is under occupation. I haven’t seen my family for three or four years, just because I am from the Gaza strip.”

So while the many were hoping that Japan would somehow stumble to create yet another ‘feel good’ story for us to enjoy, ultimately, Palestine were outclassed by a star studded, holding out for a 4-0 defeat in Newcastle in front of a 15,000 strong crowd.

If it’s any consolation, things could’ve been worse had Aguirre’s men had upped the ante and maintained their superiority.

In addition, Iraq, the team that no one really wants to talk about, managed a dull 1-0 win over Jordan.

Day four also sees the end of the first round of Asian Cup action. And if there’s anything we’ve learnt from the first four days, it’s that the competition has gotten off to a relatively decent start.

After eight matches played, 20 goals have been scored at an average of 2.5 goals a match (thanks to those new, synthetic Nike boots and balls). To put things into perspective, at this stage four years ago in Qatar, 19 goals had been scored.

It’s true, The Diary doesn’t like ending on a pessimistic note, but if there’s one other thing worth mentioning, it seems referee Abdulrahman Moh Hussain might give Ben Williams a run for his money in the ‘worst referee of the tournament’ stakes, after awarding Japan with a ridiculously soft penalty to rub salt into Palestine’s mending wounds.