Though Jerusalem is about nine kilometers from Bethlehem, the Bangladesh U-23 football team players have apparently been spending anxious hours due to the unrest over new Israeli security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound which left three Palestinians dead over the last week.
The boys in red and green have been accommodated at the Jacir Palace in Bethlehem for their ongoing AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers campaign. This is the first time that a sports contingent from Bangladesh have ever stayed in war-torn Palestine. The Bangladesh team has to travel nearly one hour from Bethlehem to play their matches in Hebron.
Having already played one match each against their Jordan and Tajikistan counterparts, the Bangladesh team is scheduled to play their third and final group match against hosts Palestine on Sunday night before their scheduled departure on Monday afternoon.
Before leaving for Palestine from Qatar, a few of the Bangladesh players had expressed their anxiety on social networks.
“It is simple that nervousness prevails among all during such troubled situations, but everyone is fine as there is no trouble at the heart of Bethlehem,” said team manager Satyajit Das Rupu over the phone on Sunday.
“However, there is an Israeli checkpoint or something like that within a hundred yards from the hotel. The Palestinians rush towards that checkpoint to protest the killings,” Rupu said. “The players were a bit scared after entering the hotel through the back door after playing the first match against Jordan on Wednesday.
“But later, the players understood the incident and realised that it is normal for Palestine,” Rupu said. “As there is no programme for us to go outside, the players stay inside the hotel after training and matches.”
The booters will leave Bethlehem on Monday afternoon for Jordan and are scheduled to reach Dhaka on Tuesday afternoon.