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Football fever hits rebel-held northwest Syria

Fever pitch: fans pack the stands for the final
— Idlib (Syria) (AFP)

Thousands of fans in Syria's last opposition bastion have packed into a stadium for the frenzied final of a football cup -- an escape valve amid years of conflict and misery.

"I'm really happy today," said Mohammed al-Zeer, 28, from the northwestern city of Idlib. "Between the war and the destruction and explosions and the problems", events like a football match are "a great joy".

Syria's rebel-held Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced from other parts of the country.

Many live in poverty, including in overcrowded displacement camps.

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