The crisp Syrian spring has given way to the heat and torrential rain of a tropical climate.

Malaysia has been "home" to the Syria team since last September and it is here, on the edge of the equator and far from their land, they must now compete.

The team arrived almost a week before their game against Uzbekistan in order to shake off jet lag, play a game against a local club and acclimatise to the steamy weather.

At their preferred hotel in the town of Seremban, one hour's drive south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, the squad have got to know the staff well. The chef accommodates their dietary requirements and, after training in the evening, the players and staff sit in a reserved section of the restaurant before retiring to their rooms.

Team members know they must use this temporary base to their advantage. They have learned all about the local conditions at the nearby Tuanku Abdul Rahman stadium and its mud bath of a pitch.

The two opponents they've faced here so far – Iran and South Korea – have both failed to score.

If Syria are to make it to Russia next summer for the World Cup they must leverage every possible angle open to them.

Things will be different though on this visit.

At very short notice the local authorities in Seremban have ruled the Rahman stadium is unavailable because of an event in the town.

Arrangements have been made for the match to be staged in Malacca, a further 40 miles to the south.

And so, with just over 72 hours before kick-off in the game that will help determine their World Cup fate, this band of footballing nomads pack up, pose for pictures with the hotel's management and hit the road once more.

Being flexible for football is something the Syrian people are used to after six years of war.

While in Damascus we were told a story about how every weekend one particular soldier on the front line lays down his weapons and picks up a whistle.

He makes the relatively short journey back to the capital in time to officiate at a local football match, swapping his combat fatigues for the black shorts and shirt of a referee.

When the game ends he changes back into his uniform, grabs his AK-47 and returns to the countryside to resume battle.

Such anecdotes show Syria as a nation where the love for football runs as deep as that witnessed in Europe or South America.

The story of the soldier referee also exemplifies how the demands of war have become wholly integrated in day-to-day Syrian life, and not just for those enlisted in the military.

Football, like every other facet of society, must fit around the regime's primary aim to prevail against its many enemies.

As a result, living in Damascus is a claustrophobic affair – the constant security checkpoints, the searches, the rivers of choking traffic and the state-sponsored paranoia cultivated by Assad are stifling.

Added to that are the daily power cuts, water shortages, a suspicion of arts and culture and an inability to often leave the country because of visa restrictions.

Many must find the freedom they crave in everyday life through playing or watching football.

On the professional side of the sport, players are clinging to their trade. The domestic game is in crisis but those still making a living through it are grateful they don't have to fight in an attritional, bitter conflict.

Those playing for Syrian clubs face thwarted dreams of the kind of life a football career can provide but, like everyone else, they count their blessings and make do with the hand they've been dealt.

Even for those players who flee the country, there is no true freedom. They may have personal safety abroad but extended families back home, and the thought of Assad's insidious long reach ensures most stay quiet about politics.

Yet it is the politics of war that has led to 11m people being uprooted from their homes over the past six years. Many have found sanctuary with family or friends in regime-controlled cities or in refugee camps such as Za'atari.

Others meanwhile, in search of a new life far from Syria, have washed ashore in flimsy vessels on the beaches of southern Europe. Those fortunate enough to still be breathing have faced perilous onward journeys within a continent increasingly fractured over its attitude towards their plight.