Saturday, May 30, 2009

Palestine hosting Terek Grozny on June 6th

What had been dubbed earlier by this blog and other media as the Chechen national team is in fact Russian Premier league side Terek Grozny. The club which is based in Grozny, the war ravaged Chechen capital, is being hosted by Palestine this week.

The Palestinian media, led by PFA press releases, is portraying the match as an encounter between two stateless teams(treating Terek as the representative of Chechnya) and is giving the match a lot of attention as the second international hosted in Al-Ram, be it FIFA recognized or not.

Its tempting to see this match as nothing more than symbolic as it is not official as far as FIFA is concerned and its hard to get excited about a club playing a national team.
Then again how often does a top flight European team, or any foreign team for that matter, play a friendly in Palestine.

Which ever way you spin it, the match should be a good exhibition for the home fans as an 'A' squad is representing Palestine. A notable new call up on the list is Mohamed Shetreet who plays in one of France's lower divisions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Palestine 1 - 1 Gençlerbirliği S.K.

Al-Fursan have secured a 1-1 draw with Gençlerbirliği S.K. who currently lie 12th in the Turkish Super Lig. Ahmed Keshkesh got the goal in the 78th minute from the penalty spot. The game served as preparation for upcoming friendlies next month against Tunisia and Chechnya next month. Izzat Hamzeh- whose demise has been reported multiple times is still in charge of the team.

Miguel Sabah gets Mexico call-up

Newly appointed Mexico manager Javier Aguirre has called up Miguel Sabah to represent Mexico in next month's qualifiers. Sabah has been in stunning form for his new team Morelia notching 11 goals in 17 games so far. He has had a couple of good seasons with Cruz Azul under his belt but was always on the fringes of the Mexican national team. As a result, he was approached by representatives from the PFA in 2006 in an effort to secure qualification for the 2007 Asian Cup. He and another player, Omar 'El Turco' Zarif of Rosario Central, turned us down because they were unwilling to play for nothing, or next to nothing as many of the other players do.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

الأقصى الفلسطيني - Aqsa

The only Palestinian league close to being active in 2002 was the Gaza league which was active from 1998 up until the Intifada in 2000, unlike the West Bank league which was all but dead at the time.
So for the 2002 Arab Cup Winners Cup, Palestine was represented by "Al-Aqsa" which was essentialy the national team at the time(i.e made up of domestic players, mainly from Gaza) rather than a club. The reasons for this are obvious: 2002 was the height of the Intifada and the tournament was a good opportunity to give the players some exposure before the Pan Arab Cup later that year. Ramzi Saleh was in goal, Saeb Jendeya captained and Ziyad Al-Kord spearheaded the offense.

Heres a highlights clip from the teams only win of the tournament against Al-Mal'ab of Tunisia(with Ziyad Al Kords bicycle kick).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Palestine ranked 175, 38th in Asia.

Palestine has taken a bit of a tumble in the rankings this month, falling four spots in the world ranking and three spots down to 38th in Asia. Hopefully, the FA will organize some official friendlies so we can boost that ranking a little bit. People stress that FIFA's rankings are flawed and meaningless but they play a huge role in Asia when it comes to determining who plays whom in World Cup, Asian Cup, and Challenge Cup qualifiers. There is a considerable amount of time to organize friendlies to get this ranking up, but if we fail to climb 10-15 spots in Asia we are guaranteed to land in difficult qualification groups when the next qualification campaign roles around. Even when we were ranked a little higher, in 2006 and 2007 we had very little luck with the draws. Qualifiers for the 2007 Asian Cup saw us paired with 2004 finalists China, eventual champions Iraq, and a formidable Singapore side, the group was regarded as the most challenging. Challenge Cup qualifiers saw us land in a group were the winner was determined by goals scored.

Rajoub should start thinking about organizing FIFA friendlies during official dates next year, that way, we can call up guys like Ramzi Saleh, Omar Jarun, Imad Zatara, Roberto Kettlun, Edgardo Abdala, Mohammed Samara, and Roberto Bishara with ease. The team right now has some good young talent but it is missing that touch of class and experience, we would be strengthened at the back with Bishara and Jarun (or maybe Daniel Mustafa if we can convince him join). Ramzi Saleh can keep us in big games just like he has kept Al-Ahly in the title race in Egypt, Abdala would help us retain possession in midfield and Zatara and Kettlun would give us creativity on the wings to compliment the likes of Attal, Lafi, Keshkesh, et al. in the middle.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Palestine to Face Chechnya Next Month

The national team is currently in Amman, Jordan, after returning from Brussels.
According to the PFA, the squad will head to Istanbul on Tuesday for a 10 day training camp in which they will face a Turkish first division side.

The stated purpose of the camp is to prepare for the friendly vs non-FIFA affiliated Chechnya on June 6, which will be played in the Palestinian territories.

The squad heading for Turkey is pretty much the same except for the notable absences of Fahed Attal, Majed Abu Sido and Fadi Lafi, presumably due to club obligations.
A closer look at the article linked above will reveal the inclusion of Sharif Adnan, the Faisaly defender notoriously left out of the Challenge Cup squad. Speaking of notoriety, Ezzat Hamza is still in charge.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Goals from Palestine - FC Brussels

Majed Abusidu scores from a well hit free kick that just barely hovers over the surface en route to the back of the net, took some deflections but we are crediting Abusidu.

Pictures from FC Brussels vs. Palestine

National Team manager Izzat Hamzeh in his last game in charge. Good Bye and Good Riddance!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Palestine 3 - 4 FC Brussels

Palestine fell 4-3 in a friendly against FC Brussels held in commemoration of UNRWA's 60th anniversary. All of Palestine's goals came in the second half after the first half ended 1-0 in favor of the side of Molenbeek. Majed Abu Sidu equalized on a free kick shortly after the break, Ahmed Keshkesh made it 3-2 in the 66th after Brussels pulled ahead with second and third goals. Brussels would score again but the Pichichi of the West Bank Premier League Ahmad Alan brought Palestine within a goal with a thunderous strike in the 87th minute.

Starting XI: Mohammed Shbair (Abdullah Al-Saidawi); Mohammed AbdelJawad (Said Al-Sobakhi), Abdelatif Bahdari, Ismail Al-Amour, Majed Abusidu; Ma'ly Kawareh, Khadr Yousef, Nadim Barghouthi (Ammar Abuseliesel), Fahed Attal, Murad Ismail (Ahmad Alan), Fadi Lafi (Ahmed Keshkesh)

Overall, I think this match was a success even though Palestine could not pull a win. Winning this match was not important, if we had won the match 1-0 by parking the bus then it would have been an empty win. The fact that we went out and played and scored a bunch of goals speaks volumes about our quality. I don't want to get ahead of myself, we aren't world beaters and I can understand the sentiment that a national team should not lose to a team from the second division of the Belgian League. But, we must all understand where Palestine is at the moment and what they are building for. Palestine is ranked 171 in the world, meaning that we are not as good a side as we were at this point three years ago when we were ranked at 115. Moreover, we are building for the long-term. We are not going to be playing in the World Cup or the Asian Cup in 2010 and 2011 and probably will not play qualifiers for the 2014 and 2015 editions until 2011. When I was asked to handicap this match by a friend, I told him that I honestly had no idea how this would turn out. We fielded a squad with a lot of fresh faces that I have not seen play against top competition other than Abusidu (12), Al-Amour (17), Keshkesh (25), Attal (22), and Lafi (33) there is not a single member of this team with more than 10 caps (Abdelatif Bahdari with 7 is the next most experienced member of the squad and his first cap came in 2007). Games like these and our failed attempt to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup vis-a-vis the Challenge Cup will help build a large domestic player pool. If the West Bank Premier League continues uninterrupted then you would have to say that Palestinian football at the grassroots would be exponentially better than it was five years ago. Another positive about this game is that it gives out players a chance to showcase their skills on the European continent in front of scouts. We put three goals past FC Brussels, you would have to think management would be willing to give a trial or take a chance on a guy like Majed Abusidu or Fadi Lafi or maybe even one of the less experienced players. We shall see what happens from this point on, but there are signs of an improvement. We will need a manager and we will have to reach out to our European and South American based players this summer and see what they can do when combined with the present squad. It is exciting times ahead, and a training camp in Turkey awaits.

Palestine to face Brussels today (May 6th) 18:30 GMT

For those of you who want to attempt to watch it feel free to leave your knowledge in the comments section. I think it might be worth trying I've heard that the match will be televised on ART sport 1, so there may be a stream out there. I'll let you know if I find anything out there.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Palestine slated to face Tunisian Olympic team in June

According to Tunisia will play Palestine in Ramallah (Al-Ram's Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium) on the 11th or 12th of June. This will be the second game that Palestine plays on home soil after facing off with Jordan in a 1-1 draw in October. Refreshing to see that the team is actually going to be playing games from time to time instead of just stagnating for months on end.

The Zionist movement and sports in Palestine

An insightful look at the beginnings of Palestinian sport in the 20th century and their sabotage by various colonial entities. Thanks to Issam Khalidi and Electronic Intifada.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Palestinians Abroad: Bishara refused, Kettlun Promoted, Saleh to face European superstars

National team defender Roberto Bishara has been denied his request to represent Palestine in Belgium against FC Brussels this Wednesday. At the time of writing, CD Palestino lies 16th in the 18 team table a mere two points above last place Rangers. CD Palestino is hoping to finish their Apertura campaign on a high note and avoid any talk of a possible relegation playoff.

In other news, Roberto Kettlun's Serie D1 side- Brindisi 1912 has won promotion to Serie C2.

Ramzi Saleh's Al-Ahly have signed on to participate in the Wembley Cup- a preseason competition which will pit Al-Ahly against European heavyweights FC Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, and Celtic Glasgow.

Women's WCQ: Palestine Out

Palestine fell against rivals Jordan 5-0 yesterday the result means that Jordan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan will qualify for the next round of Asian Cup/World Cup Qualifying.

There is now a restraining order between the words "Sharbini" and "Palestine"

UPDATE: A lot of what has been posted here no longer applies. FIFA statutes have changed, an it does seem that both Sharbinis are being courted by the Jordanian FA. For more info read this blogpost:

As far as I'm concerned, there is no conversation to be had here. For the past two years, I've heard over and over about how both these Croatian-born brothers, Ahmad and Anas Sharbini, were going to play for Palestine. Rumors started in 2007 and there were news stories in Arabic press to back them up, as well. Both brothers were supposed to get their first caps for Palestine in the 2007 World Cup Qualifier against Singapore. As the date drew near, the fabricators of the story fabricated another over the top story claiming that Anas and Ahmad received death threats from Croatian extremists and would not be playing in the Singapore game.

Since then, the story has been given new life and it now seems that every Football Association in the Mediterranean region has a claim on these brothers. After the hoopla with our national team died down, the brothers linked with potentially representing the Syria internationally, as their father was born there, it would be relatively easy to issue them passports. But wait, there's more! A couple of days ago the notoriously unreliable rumor mill that is started claiming that the brothers were in talks to join the Jordanian National Team, the fabricators of that story neglect to mention that the brothers have absolutely no Jordanian heritage . So allow me to tell you, there is absolutely no chance that the Sharbini brothers will represent Palestine, Syria, or even Jordan for that matter.

Anas and Ahmad have represented Croatia at youth level and since both are over the age of 21, they cannot switch allegiances. I think many people are unaware of the new rules that came into effect last year. Unlike when the rule was first introduced, there are now limitations put in place to stop teams like Qatar from exploiting young foreign players. So although Fredric Kanoute switched allegiances from France to Mali in 2004 at the age of 27 there is no chance of this happening now. According to the FIFA webpage, the new FIFA Statutes were amended in May of 2008 and came into full effect in August of last year.

Article 18 now states:

If a Player has more than one nationality, or if a Player acquires a new nationality, or if a Player is eligible to play for several representative teams due to nationality, he may, up to his 21st birthday, and only once, request to change the Association for which he is eligible to play international matches to the Association of another country which he holds nationality

So there you have it. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200. We do wish both brothers the best of luck, they are Croatian born and have a Croatian mother so it makes sense for them to represent Croatia. Look at this way: If Croatia and Chile both qualify we could see three Palestinians (the other being Colo-Colo's Daud Gazalé) playing in next year's World Cup.