TEL AVIV - Residents of the Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin were celebrating in the streets Saturday night after local hero Abbas Suwan scored a dramatic last-minute goal to lift Israel to a 1:1 draw against Ireland.
The Irish team led throughout the game after an early goal, but a powerful drive by Suwan in the 90th minute found the left corner, keeping Israel in a good position in its World Cup qualifiers pool.
He said it was his first goal for the national team and added he hoped more will come.
Notably, Suwan was booed by Jerusalem fans in a recent friendly match against Croatia because he is Arab, an incident that prompted wall-to-wall condemnation by players and officials alike.
Saturday’s goal, however, was the appropriate answer to all those who booed, Suwan said.
“I thank everyone who cheered on the national team and made no distinction between Arabs and Jews,” he said. “Everyone hugged me in the dressing room because they remembered what happened.”
Suwan was also interviewed by CNN after the game, and repeated the same message.
‘It’s worth more than a million dollars’
Meanwhile, fireworks lit up the skies in Sakhnin, were a convoy of honking cars made its way to Suwan’s house minutes after the game ended.
“It’s worth more than a million dollars,” he said. “The honor he brought to the town, the (Arab-Israeli) sector, and the entire country, is worth all the money in the world.”
Suwan’s wife, Tsafa, was the first to call him and congratulate him on the dramatic goal.
“You brought great joy to all your fans and to an entire nation,” she told him.
Suwan’s brother, Assam, said the family was very proud of his brother.
“It’s a great pride, to have the entire country talking about my brother,” he said. ‘You cannot ask for more.