Palestinian Football Federation asks IOC and FIFA for "urgent inquiry". GETTY IMAGES

The Palestinian national team makes its debut in the Asian Cup against Iran on 14 January. The players are trying to get out of the situation as a result of the conflict in Gaza. It will be Palestine's third appearance at the tournament, which runs from 12 January to 10 February in Qatar.

The Palestinian national team will make their debut against Iran at the Asian Cup in Qatar in two weeks' time. The squad has already arrived at its training base, but all the members are torn between football and the situation they have been facing since 7 October.

"Everyone is glued to the news, before and after training, on the bus or in the hotel," team coach Makram Daboub told AFP from Saudi Arabia, where the players are training. Qatar will host of the Asian Cup from 12 January to 10 February, and Palestine will play their first match against Iran on 14 January. 

Since 7 October, football has taken a back seat. Matches in Gaza and the West Bank have been suspended. Some players, such as Mahmoud Wadi and Mohammed Saleh, have been unable to forget their families. They are trapped in Gaza and do not know when they will be able to leave. 

"The Palestinian fans are counting on the national team to achieve good results in this third participation, despite the difficult conditions our people are experiencing due to the Israeli aggression that led to the suspension of the competitions," the official Palestinian Authority Press Agency wrote on Monday. 

Many others have been forced to flee the conflict and seek refuge elsewhere. It is clear that the concentration required to prepare for a tournament as demanding as the Asian Cup requires a different kind of preparation. Some 85 percent of Gaza's population has been displaced, according to the United Nations, and it will be difficult for any of the players not to be personally affected in some way when they take on Iran on 14 January.

Football has been out of action in Gaza since 7 October. GETTY IMAGES
Football has been out of action in Gaza since 7 October. GETTY IMAGES

Football is overshadowed. What should be the players' main focus is not. The situation of their families gives them "a constant feeling of anxiety", pointed out Daboub, a former coach and player from Tunisia. The Palestinian Football Association is taking part in the continental showpiece for the third time, but the conditions they need to maximise their sporting performance are far from ideal. 

However, the players are concentrating on football as much as possible. Daboub is confident of "qualifying for the later stages of the Asian Cup and presenting the honourable face of Palestinian football". Despite the challenges they face, the continental tournament continues to bring together the best players in a game that continues to grow . For the Palestinian coach, it is important to "raise the Palestinian flag" on the international stage. 

The president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajub, echoed these sentiments, saying in statements collected by AFP that the conflict has had an impact on "sport and youth movements". 

Many young talents have seen their sporting careers cut short and have been forced to flee the situation and move to safer places. The Palestinian leader accused Israeli forces of "targeting Palestinian sports clubs... in flagrant violation of the Olympic Charter". 

He pointed to the events at the Yarmouk football stadium in Gaza, which Israeli troops "turned into a place of detention, abuse and interrogation". Rajub recalled that Yarmouk was built in 1939, making it one of the oldest Palestinian stadiums.