this is bbc news — the headlines: britain's conservative party says it is working on a deal with a small northern irish party to help it pass legislation. the democratic unionist party says discussions will continue next week. the prime minister has faced mounting criticism since she lost her parliamentary majority in thursday's election. american special forces have joined the battle in the southern philippine city of marawi against militants who've declared allegiance to the islamic state group. the fighters have held parts of the city for nearly three weeks despite intense urban fighting. the us forces will provide technical support to philippine forces. a major rescue operation has taken place in the mid—atlantic after a yacht race that set out from the uk was hit by a severe storm. one boat sunk and several other crews had to abandon their vessels. a passenger cruise ship, the queen mary 2, was among boats that were drafted in to help the rescue. now on bbc news, it's
time for our world. they are the unlikely sporting heroes in a country ripped apart by conflict. syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war, but the national football team is trying to send a message it hopes can transcend political and religious differences. i'm following the team as they compete for a place in football's biggest tournament — the world cup. some syrians refuse to support the team because it's associated with the assad regime, but for others, even those who fled syria in fear of their lives, the team is a symbol of national pride. the team has defied
the odds by beating some of asia's biggest and best. syria! now they're on the road again, competing for so much more than just football glory. it's friday afternoon in damascus and the weekend is under way. prayers in the morning and, like so many places around the world, football in the afternoon. it's here that i meet
ta rek jabban, assistant coach of syria's national team. i'm joining him as he watches a low—key fixture in syria's premier league, which is also attempting to carry on despite the conflict. syrian football fans have much to cheer about right now. their national side has performed beyond expectations, as they try to qualify for next year's world cup in russia. economic sanctions mean the country, and therefore football, has little money. what cash there is comes from the assad government, keen to use football to give the impression of a united, functioning state. syrian players need somebody to support the team. ourfederation, our government. now our equipment, our conditions is not what we want.
syrian government officials are keen to show us that football is flourishing. let's go and meet the man. we can learn more about this... it's half—time and tarek introduces me to his boss, the head coach of the national football team and the man responsible for their recent good results. you beat china 1—0. you drew with south korea. there's a real opportunity here for syria to go to a world cup. do the players now believe, do they have the belief in their hearts that they can qualify for the world cup? syria's president, bashar al—assad,
wants the perception to be that his country is returning to normal, and sport helps with that aim. but regardless of his intentions, it's clear that sport, that football coming back to syria provides the people with a chance to forget about their worries — at least, for 90 minutes. after six years of war, more games are being played and fans are slowly returning. but football is only possible in government—held areas and not in large swathes of this country outside the regime's control. this season is interesting because all the syrian people want to come back to stadiums, want to support the teams. it's 2—2 at the moment. yes. let's see if anyone can get a late winner.
i think it's the first time in this field, er, two teams score four goals. because all games in this field... there's another one. it's a goal! 3-2. we saw all games in this field finishing 1—0, 0—0. 1-0, 0-0. it's the first time maybe, er... five goals. because maybe you are coming this time. it's the bbc‘s fault! yes. we should come every week! they chant. what looks like normal life does go on in president assad's damascus and you'd be forgiven at times for thinking there is no war. that's how syria's leader wants it. here on the east side of damascus, we're at a football field that's been hit in the past by mortar fire. very few of the national team play in syria, but five
star players are here, training with their local club side. for a variety of reasons, they've stayed in syria, their career choices complicated by the war. every so often, you can hear the sound of an aerial artillery shell going off somewhere in the distance. we're very close here to one of the front lines, even as we are in the centre of damascus. but the players, they're not fussed. they haven't even raised an eyebrow. this is the sound of war. it's something they've grown up with. omar al—midani is one of the younger members of the national team. does this team really believe it can go on and qualify for russia?
the training looks familiar. that's where similarities between the game here and in other countries ends. the difference is not just the conditions, but the hopes and expectations that are placed upon this team. there is no part of life in assad—controlled syria untouched by the regime. every facet of society, especially where there is success, such as with the national football team, is presented as a sign of a functioning state.
but the illusion is easily shattered. we were filming at a market when we heard a very loud explosion nearby. there are reports that a number of people have been killed, so we're going now to see if we can find out what's happened and see what damage has been caused. two devices have detonated. one by the roadside, another by a suicide bomber targeting mainly shia pilgrims visiting from iraq. all of a sudden, i'm a war reporter. our correspondent, richard conway, is at the scene. this is the largest attack to hit damascus in some time. a suicide bomber detonated his device in this commercial district, in the centre of damascus, killing at least a0 people, injuring dozens more. working as a sport correspondent means you simply don't see devastation like this.
the number of people killed rose over time to 7a. the experience is a shocking and a harrowing insight into the painful realities of life in syria. what before had beenjust words about the conflict, war and bombings was now very real in my mind. i'd come to syria to find out how football could possibly thrive and matter in a time of war, but right now, that question seemed more difficult to answer than ever. ok, this is important medals from my life. this is the under—19s... tarek has devoted much of his life to syrian football... we won 2—1. ..and in this box are the medals that prove it. this is you, yeah, with the captain's armband? yes, number five.
yeah. but that was before the war. now is many players now in our national team, but i am... so now you're their coach? yes. so you've gone from being, playing with them, to now... today, the majority of the most talented players look to play abroad. there is a big difference because now, you understand, before six years, all syrian players in the national team was being in syria. but now we need our players to play outside syria. er, i think who play inside, i think his level is not good for the future. look at that! this is for you and your group. oh, that's very kind, you baked us a cake! that's so kind of you. thank you very much. yes, you're welcome. tarek is preparing to say goodbye to his family and fly to malaysia. sanctions and the war mean this team must play its home games on neutral ground. a 14,000—kilometre round trip awaits. the game against uzbekistan is arguably the most important
match in syria's history. there is political capital for the assad regime in the team's success, but i can't help but wonder if those forced to flee syria will be supporting the team too. nearly five million people have sought refuge abroad from the syrian civil war. 80,000 of them are here, in the zaatari camp, in northern jordan. just a few kilometres from the syrian border,
it's a living, breathing testament to the human cost of war. mohammad al—khalaf was a professional footballer with the syrian top—flight club al majd, but when his brother was killed by a shell which hit their house, he — together with his family — escaped over the border to jordan. like many here, he is angry. mohammad is beginning to get his football career back on track and still supports the national team. issam al masri is just 22,
and considered the best player in camp. the medals he has here are all from playing football inside zaatari. he was a young talent with a professional side al—shoulla in the city of dara, but in 2012, he fled with his family. like mohammed, he is trying to resurrect his career. he coaches the children here in the camp. bravo. he admits to me that, like many, it is hard to talk openly. the guarded language used even
here in the refugee camp makes it clear just how fearful people are of talking about politics. but still, like mohammed, issam supports the national side. right here in camp is tough, but people are safe, having escaped from the war. now, football is one of the central activities that children get to enjoy. it is fun, and gives them a sense of purpose — but it also gives them something that is very precious, having escaped from the conflict: the sense of normal childhood.
what is your favourite team? real madrid! what about england ? does anybody like any english teams? juventus! that's in italy. what about newcastle united? that's my team. now who are you? you are like a little ronaldo. and your favourite in syria? omar al somah. why does everyone like somah so much? high fives, everyone! i had wondered how much these children would know of syrian football, but clearly, the players are heroes. football matters, because of the hope it can provide. even here, amongst
those displaced by civil war, and who've lost loved ones that are regime, i got a sense of the love and pride that they hold for their country and endures, despite the suffering. it feels as though the country's football team provides people with a safe focus for those feelings. the historic malaysian resort town of malacca is the venue for syria's crucial match against uzbekistan. and it is nowjust days away. those members of the squad who travelled from syria have beenjoined by players earning much bigger money in places like china, kuwait, and saudi arabia. the range of salaries is matched by the range of religions and backgrounds within the squad. i catch up with omar again,
and he introduces me to mardik mardikian, one of the few christians to play in the side. of course, more controversial than religious differences are political ones. the side has long been multifaith, but for this important match, a first: firas al khateeb, one of the greatest syrian footballers of this generation, left the team, and criticised the syrian regime. as a result, he has not played for five yea rs. but he is returning to the squad for the match. beyond funding, the extent
to which the assad government is involved in team affairs is unknown. the mix of faiths and now politics within the squad certainly sends a message that the regime wants heard: syria can come together, at least for football. but many former players haven't returned. before the war, mohammed al ibrahim represented syria 31 times. the conflict forced him to pursue his career abroad. he's been asked to play for the national team, but so far has not, for what says are personal reasons. politics is probably not on the minds of the national team
players as they arrive at the stadium for their game against uzbekistan. right now, they are dealing with another p: pressure. with their past performances, and all this talk of their success, expectation rises amongst their fans. syria! there are about 100 syria fans in the stadium. the country's footballing ambitions now rest on the shoulders of these 11 players. it's a close game, and at half—time, it's goalless.
in a sports club in damascus, the tension is palpable, as fans watch the game head towards the final minutes. a win here is crucial to syria's world cup hopes. then, in the final minutes, firas al khatib is fouled and wins a penalty. omar khribin scores, and syria have a famous victory. its meaning to those in damascus is clear. so, too, here in malaysia. syria! coach, lovely to meet you. good luck in south korea.
this team operates under unique circumstances. thank you, thank you. they have a real belief they are playing for the syrian people. the achievements really do seem to transcend both sport and politics. it demonstrates the power of sport and how, even amidst the horrors of civil war that has ripped syria apart, it can matter so much to so many. good morning.
rough rule of thumb for the day ahead is that where you were warm and sunny yesterday, you will be that bit cloudier and cooler today. where it was wet, a bit brighter. not necessarily dry because there will still be some showers around. they are driven by a deep area of low pressure to the west of the uk which keeps things rather blustery on sunday. notice this weather front here, that brought the rain across northern england and wales through saturday. nothing more than a weakening feature in east anglia and the south—east first thing this morning. this morning, across scotland and northern ireland, the showers have been going through the night. they will get heavier as the go through the morning. one or two just pushing into northumberland and cumbria. much of norhtern england, west midlands, wales and the south—west, compared with what you saw on saturday, a much drier and brighter day. a lot more cloud across east anglia and the south—east. that's the weak weather front i wasjust mentioning, producing patchy rain or drizzle. particularly murky around some
of the coasts of sussex and kent. it will clear and for the rest of the day, dry with increasing amounts of sunshine. after a sunny start in northern and western england and wales, a few showers pushing in here. scotland and northern ireland, showers becoming that bit more frequent, heavy and thundery into the afternoon. you'll be ha rd—pressed to completely avoid them. temperatures here may be up a bit on what you saw yesterday down towards the south—east corner but pleasant enough once the sun is out. it will be out at the cosford airshow. small chance of a light shower later on. a greater chance of showers at dublin for republic of ireland's world cup qualifier. for those still heading to wales for the match in belgrade, there could be a few storms around earlier on but a lot of the day will be dry, sunny and warm. through sunday night and into monday, still a bit breezy and still more showers across the northern half of the country. longer spells of rain for scotland. temperatures a bit down on monday morning. it will feel fresh across scotland because of the breeze. it may cause a few travel issues for the monday morning rush—hour. you could see gusts of up to 50 mph. the bridges and ferries could be impacted.
elsewhere, a breezy, blustery start but the winds easing down. one or two morning showers but nowhere near as frequent as we have seen on sunday. the showers by the afternoon mainly across scotland and northern england. generally, quite a bit of cloud on monday. a few sunny breaks in the south and east. temperatures will have dropped down compared to the weekend but that will change through tuesday and into wednesday, a ridge of high pressure builds in. it doesn't quite build enough to stop the showers in parts of scotland and northern ireland. a few showers showing up for belfast but cardiff, —— a few showers showing up for belfast but cardiff, london and much of england and wales, increasing amounts of sunshine and temperatures on the up. bye for now. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is duncan golestani. our top stories: theresa may has discussed finalising a deal with a northern irish party to enable britain's minority government to pass laws. also this hour, us special forces