Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Palestine grouped alongside Nepal, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan

The AFC Challenge Cup draw took place at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur today. The results are as follows:

Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh*, Macau/Mongolia
Turkmenistan, The Philippines, Bhutan, Maldives*
Nepal*, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine
Sri Lanka*, Pakistan, Chinese Taipei, Brunei Darussalam

*Group hosts

As the two lowest ranked participants, Macau and Mongolia will undergo a playoff in March. Palestine have been drawn into an interesting group, especially as theyll be facing Kyrgyzstan who knocked them out of the quarterfinals with a last minute goal in the 2006 edition of the tournament. The winner of each group and the best second placed team will qualify to the finals to join Tajikstan, DPR Korea and India in the 8 team tournament. The qualifiers will be held in early April with a detailed schedule to be released later.

AFC Challenge Cup info

We should get details very soon about the participating teams in the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup. quoted Football Association of Maldives President Ali Azim as saying,

Participating countries will be finalized on 28th of January and on 2nd February the host country will be decided after an AFC meeting".

He also added that the Maldives has a high chance of becoming a host country. So the following questions are up for grabs: who will participate? who will host the qualifiers? who will host the finals?

All these should be answered within the next few days. So just a correction, my previous posts had India slated as the sole host, this is apparently not the confirmed case.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A look back: Palestine & the AFC Challenge Cup

With the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers coming up and the national team in preperations for them, its worth a look back at Palestine's first appearance in the inaugural 2006 AFC Challenge Cup. Click here for full overview of that tournament.
Held every 2 years, the 'ACC' was created by the Asian Football Confederation for its "emergent" members to compete in as a means of developing the game in those countries. The 2006 AFC Challenge Cup was held in Bangladesh. Palestine were among the favorites to win the cup and went in on a high as they defeated ASEAN champions Singapore in their Asian Cup qualifiers group just months before. The hero of that match, Fahed Attal, made his intentions of topping the scorer table clear before heading off to Dhaka. Unlike the squad that defeated Singapore, the AFC Challenge Cup squad consisted mainly of domestic players with the exception of Roberto Kattlun and Francisco Alam.
Palestine was in group C alongside Cambodia, Guam and hosts, Bangladesh.
As the opponents were markedly weaker, Coach Mohamed Sabah fielded a 3-5-2 formation. A sharp contrast to the defensively inclined formations used in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.
The first match was vs Guam and promised to be a one-sided drubbing. And that it was. It ended 11-0 for the Palestinians, Fahed Attal netting 6, supported by goals from Ahmad Keshkesh, Ziyad AlKord, Francisco Alam and Ismail Amour. Couldnt have asked for a better start at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Next up came Cambodia who lost 1-2 in their opening match against Bangladesh. Palestine won 4-0.

The first two matches went as expected with Palestine guaranteeing progress to the quarterfinals. The final group match was against Bangladesh who also won their first two matches. The winner would top the group and avoid facing Tajikstan. On paper, Palestine had the upper hand recording bigger victories against the same opponents. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with Palestine topping the group.
Palestine was showing signs of slowing. Its important to note that the domestic league was in hiatus at the time which meant that most of the players werent in top shape. Playing three matches in 6 days in the Dhaka heat certainly took its toll on the players.
In the quarterfinal we were set to play Kyrgyzstan and it definitely looked to be a challenging fixture.
The match was even-handed with Fahed Attal coming close a few times but not finishing. It ended with Kyrgyzstan grabbing a late winner in injury time. And with that, Palestines 2006 AFC Challenge Cup hopes were dashed. But there was some compensation as Fahed Attal emerged as top scorer of the tournament.

Back to 2009. The next AFC Challenge Cup will be in 2010 in India. There will be qualifiers in April and Ezzat Hamza has named a list of 32 domestic players who will be narrowed down to 25 before joining a training camp with foreign based players. The stakes are much higher this time as the winner qualifies automatically to the 2011 Asian Cup.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quick news

Summary of developments in the past week:
  • The Palestinian Football Association received FIFA's inaugural Development Award
  • The FA announced a list of 32 players from the domestic league to be called up to the next training camp.Many familiar faces from the last time around + some new ones.
  • Former national team player Ayman Al Kord was killed in the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gaza crisis

Israel is waging a devestating war on the people of Gaza. The death count is well into the hundreds and will climb higher.
The occupier has an unstated goal of destroying the morale of the Palestinian people and their aspirations for nationhood. But we know that will never happen, no army can destroy an idea whose time has come. We will continue to exist, in our land, in our culture and in our football.
In Solidarity, Football Palestine