Tuesday, June 30, 2009

French-Morrocan Mousa Bezaz takes over as Head Coach

The PFA has announced through its magazine, "Falasteen al Riyady", that it has chosen Mousa Bezaz as the new head coach of the Palestinian National team. He will arrive in Palestine this week to get a feel of the football situation and to outline his goals.
His full resumé is included in the above linked article. In the 1970's and 80's he played in and coached various lower division French sides. He played for top tier side Socheaux from 1974-1983 and has played for France's under-23 national team.
Bezaz went on to continue his career as a coach in the 90's, coaching lower division French sides and also coaching in Cameroon. His latest appointment was as a lecturer and consultant to the French Football Federation. Bezaz has a UEFA Pro 'A' coaching certificate which is the highest coaching licence offered by the body. Recently, the AFC announced a requirement for all Asian national teams to have 'A' licensed coaches.

As evidenced from the message boards, Bezaz's appointment comes as a relief to Palestine fans who have been frustrated from the seemingly directionless path the team has been on for the last year. This is a step in the right direction. Bezaz is professionally signed and if anything seems to be competent in his field. I don't know much about him, but he could be the right man for the job. The fact that his coaching experience is mainly in the lower French divisions and Cameroon means he has experience in football development, which is what we need. Palestine does not need a Hiddink or a Scolari, what Palestine needs is a coach who could take the team from the ground up.

PFA: China proposes a friendly on July 18th

The PFA has received an invite from its Chinese counterpart for a friendly on July 18th in Beijing. They are yet to respond.

China is a league above Palestine so this would be good international exposure. Palestine and China met twice before in Guangzhou and Amman, China winning both times 2-0.

[UPDATE]: Xinhua article

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Some thoughts now that AFC WC Qualification has wrapped up

Last night, North Korea sealed an improbable qualification campaign that saw them qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in the modern era. I had the opportunity to catch their final match against Saudi Arabia a match that determined the fate of three teams in the group. Iran, who had drawn earlier in the day needed either a North Korea or Saudi victory in order to clinch a playoff spot. The Saudis desperately needed a victory if they were to avoid bogey team Bahrain in the AFC playoff. For 90 minutes the Saudis attacked and the Koreans repelled playing 10 men behind the ball and only occasionally probing the Saudi defence. Somehow, this technique succeeded and the North Koreans got the draw they were looking for, the game ended 0-0. Iran was out, North Korea in, and Saudi was somewhere in between.

So why am I writing about this? Well, it's simple really... Asian football lacks quality. The AFC is by far worse than any other confederation (Oceania excepted) and the fact that a team like North Korea can qualify is indicative of that. North Korea, like Palestine, is classified as an "emerging/developing" association by the AFC. As a result, North Korea is allowed in the AFC Challenge Cup, their sole Challenge Cup campaign saw them finish third in 2008. What does it say about the AFC that one of it's lesser developed sides can qualify for the World Cup ahead of perennial powers Saudi Arabia and Iran? Well, either North Korea has a very developed FA that it has kept hidden from the rest of the world OR what's more likely is that the AFC has in reality 2-3 quality (by quality I mean sides that can make World Cup arrangements before actually qualifying, and while in the actual tournament are not just there to make up the numbers, at the last World Cup Australia, South Korea, and Japan (to a lesser extent) demonstrated this kind of quality) teams and isn't deserving of the 4.5 slots given to them. It is my belief that South Korea, Australia, and Japan are the three sides that would be able to get the better of North Korea if put in the same position Saudi Arabia was in last night. The other "big teams" I neglected to mention are not far off the pace from the three teams I did mention. But I think you can safely say they lack a cutting edge, good teams can break down smaller teams that come to play 10 men behind the ball. You can bet your bottom dollar that come June 2010, North Korea is going to be exposed, they will struggle to score goals and will be extremely fortunate to leave the tournament with a point.

What I am trying to say here is that if North Korea can do it, then Palestine can do it too. Not only that, I beleive that Palestine could actually do it with more goals, grace, and style than North Korea. Palestine need not go into big games and play ultra-defensive football, they have better and more dynamic players than North Korea. They will need to be discplined, but the heirarchy of Asian football is transient, North Korea's qualification and Iraq's Asian Cup victory prove this. For all the skeptics who believe that North Korea is miles ahead of Palestine I invite you to look at both teams' attempts at qualification in the past 10 years, you will see a very similar record (results listed below). Of course others might also point out our recent results, which have been somewhat unspectacular. Well, I will tell you this, if we get the right manager in place I believe we are better equipped in previous years at making a either winning the 2012 edition of the Challenge Cup, qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, or qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup. It is, however, contingent on a couple of factors:

1. The appointment of a professional National Team manager seasoned enough to deal with the situation (Alferd Riedl, Azmi Nassar, and Nicola Shahwan were good managers. Izzat Hamzeh, Nelson Dekmak, were not). A system must implemented that compliments our strengths and minimizes our weaknesses.
2. The continued funding of the team must be guaranteed.
3. The return of several foreign based players who have not played for Palestine in nearly a year (or more): Ramzi Saleh, Omar Jarun, Imad Zatara, Edgardo Abdala, Roberto Kettlun, Mohammed Samara, et al...
4. Friendlies must arranged against fellow national teams in order to boost our ranking and place us at around 20th in the AFC instead of the 35th we are now. Moreover, this will help us avoid tough qualification groups and will also ensure that we have the opportunity to partake in Asian Cup Qualifiers instead of being relegated to having to win the Challenge Cup in order to qualify.
5. No more exhibition matches! They are a waste of time and resources and sometimes result in embarassing situations. Said Al-Sobakhi refused a call up agaisnt Terek Grozny because he was getting married and Ramzi Saleh didn't show either because he and some Al-Ahly teamates made a religious pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. 6. Domestic Football in Gaza and the West Bank must continue to be played yearly. They keep players fresh and prepared for international duty, they also help players secure deals abroad.
1998 World Cup:
Palestine: Did Not Enter (not a FIFA member)
North Korea: Withdrew  

2000 Asian Cup:
Group 8 (11 points) (2nd out of 4 teams)
D Thailand 0-0 
D Malaysia 1-1 
W Chinese Taipei 2-0 
L Thailand 5-3 
W Chinese Taipei 1-0 
W Malaysia 4-1  

Group 4 (3 pts) (4th out of 5 teams) 
L Qatar 1-0 
W Pakistan 2-0 
L Jordan 5-1 
L Kazakhstan 2-0  

2002 World Cup:
Group 3 (7 points) (2nd out of 4 teams)
D Hong Kong 1-1 
L Qatar 2-1  
W Malaysia 1-0  
W Hong Kong 1-0 
L Qatar 2-1 
L Malaysia 4-3

North Korea: Withdrew

2004 Asian Cup:
Group B (2 points) (4th out of 4 teams) 
D Qatar 1-1 
L Qatar 2-1  
L Kuwait 2-1 
L Kuwait 4-0 
L Singapore 2-0 
D Singapore 0-0

Group D (1 point) (4th out of 4 teams)  
L Lebanon 1-0 
L Iran 3-1 
D Lebanon 1-1 
L Iran 3-0 
L Jordan 3-0 
L Jordan 3-0

2006 World Cup:
(7 pts) Group 2 (3rd out of 4 teams) 
W Chinese Taipei 8-0 
D Iraq 1-1 
L Uzbekistan 2-0 
L Uzbekistan 3-0 
W Chinese Taipei 1-0 
L Iraq 4-1

Group 5 (11 points) (1st out of 4 teams, qualified for final round) D Yemen 1-1 
D UAE 0-0 
W Thailand 4-1 
W Thailand 4-1 
W Yemen 2-1 
L UAE 1-0
Group B (3 points) (4th/4 teams) 
L Japan 2-1 
L Bahrain 2-1 
L Iran 1-0 
L Iran 2-0 
L Japan 2-0  
W Bahrain 3-2

2006 Challenge Cup:
W Guam 11-0  
W Cambodia 4-0  
D Bangladesh 1-1 
L Kyrgyzstan 1-0

North Korea: Withdrew  
2007 Asian Cup: 
Group E (4 points) (3rd/4 teams) 
L China 2-0 
W Singapore 1-0 
L Iraq 3-0  
D Iraq 2-2 
L China 2-0 

North Korea: Withdrew

2008 Challenge Cup
North Korea: 3rd Place 
W Sri Lanka 3-0 
W Nepal 1-0 
W Myanmar 1-0 
L Tajikstan 1-0 
W Myanmar 4-0

Palestine: Withdrew

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Transfer News: Keshkesh and Bahdari agree personal terms with Jordanian champions Wihdat

Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra'ie is reporting that Abdelatif Bahdari and Ahmad Keshkesh will move to Wihdat if the club can agree compensation with Al-Hilal of Gaza. The transfer has been complicated due to the fact that Keshkesh and Bahdari moved to Al-Am'ary and Al-Hilal Jericho on loan deals after the Gaza league was suspended indefinitely. A lot of credit for arranging this move must go to ex-national team manager Izzat Hamzeh who has strong links with the club having served on the board of directors. Here's hoping that the transfer goes through as soon as possible.  

AP: Brazilian football teams plan to play in West Bank in November

The Associated Press is reporting that Flamengo and Corinthians will play an exhibition match on Palestinian soil this coming November. The article also states that this will be the only match played and no plans have been made to play in front an Israeli audience.

The match means some famous players will be playing on Palestinian soil. Flamengo's ranks boast World Cup winners (and Manchester United bust) Kleberson and Zé Roberto. Everyone's favorite Qatari also plays for the Rio de Janiero side along with popular party animal and motivation lacking superstar- Adriano . Corinthians, boast some serious star power as well, including the likes of the pie-eating machine that is Ronaldo alongside young hotshots Lulinha and Detinho.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

PFA.ps: Ezzat Hamza offered Consultative Role

Read: Ezzat Hamza fired

And its about time. The PFA has announced that Ezzat Hamza will be offered a consultative role in the association. Atlas Sport went further to report based on one of their "trusted sources" that the next coach will be a foreign coach and will be chosen in the coming months. More on this as it develops.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Adidas Kit

How did I miss this..Palestine wore an Adidas kit in yesterdays match, are they our new supplier?
I believe we expressed our opposition to a red home jersey numerous times here, but this sure looks better than those tacky kits we wore in the Challenge Cup qualifiers.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Palestinian Media Circus - Terek Grozny in Palestine

As most of you who read Football Palestine might have noticed, we rarely get into politics. But when your talking about anything that has to do with Palestine, political issues will find their way into your conversations somehow. My criticism falls on the Palestinian media led by the Football Association. They made todays match against Terek Grozny to something it isnt.

This match was the brainchild of politicians. Earlier this year Mahmoud Abaas visited the Chechen Republic and made a deal with the Chechen leader for a "match between Palestine and Chechnya" to be played in Al-Ram. As the set date got closer, we kept reading in the PFA's press releases about the upcoming match with the Chechnyan national team. It then became clear that it wasn't the Chechen national team that was coming, it was Terek Grozny, the Chechen capital's representative in the Russian top division. But still, we kept hearing about the Chechen national team and the show of solidarity between two peoples and all that. The idea was that both peoples were oppressed by Israel and Russia respectively(but of course there was no mention of that).

We were already questioning those notions when we found out that it was Terek Grozny, a professional club rather than a national team, that was coming but the Palestinian media kept exaggerating about the importance of the match and spouting all that rhetoric about solidarity.

Come matchday, and as I expected, a Russian flag is flying over the Faisal-Husseini. Of course I have no problem with that, I knew it was a Russian team we were playing and any club from any country(except Beitar Jerusalem) is welcome as far as I'm concerned. But I couldn't help but think how ridiculous that build up was. This match was our second match on home soil and it was against a club, nothing more. I do not know to what extent it was a show of solidarity between peoples. A show of solidarity between politicians is more like it and I doubt the Chechen president represents the Chechens that were brutalized by Russian bombing campaigns. I mean, last year he named an avenue in Grozny after Vladimir Putin.

The point is, the media should keep it real and quit sensationalizing. Blame falls on the PFA as well, they were the ones spurring everyone on. Just give matches the attention they deserve and nothing more. For the record I wasn't too interested in the result, I spent the day following World Cup Qualifiers. Thats a lot of matches. FIFA.com's live matchcast is great!

Palestine 2 - 2 Terek Grozny: Initial Reaction

Well first things first allow us to clarify that this was the match billed as "Palestine vs. Chechnya". We sometimes make mistakes on this blog but that is only because we get our information second hand from Palestinian and Arab media outlets which are sometimes inaccurate when reporting sports stories. The game kicked off with celebrations in front of a nearly fully stadium, and Fadi Lafi captained the side in the absence of the injured Ahmed Keshkesh, Palestine started off brightly and you could see some of the Terek players were taken aback, in the first 10 minutes Palestine went close through Fahed Attal and Khadr Yousef- whose multiple touches really spoiled what seemed to be a golden chance. Terek whose quality was evident hit the first goal after the Palestinian defence failed to deal with a goalmouth scramble. Terek then doubled their lead when the Romanian international Florentin Petre hit an absolute beauty past Mohammed Shbair.

Palestine continued to show some promise, the defence looked steady throughout under the stewardship of Bahdari and AbdelJawad. Fahed Attal did not stop running and Ismail Al-Amour showed why he has been a mainstay of the national team for nearly a decade. On the flip side there were some poor performances, Fadi Lafi drifted in and out of the game and Ma'ly Kawre' lukewarm performance disappointed. Mohammed Shbair almost handed (literally) a third goal to Terek Grozny.

Just before halftime, Palestine had a Fahed Attal goal ruled out for offside and Terek saw one of their players sent off for a second bookable offense. As a result, the second half saw a more open encounter Palestine keeping the ball well and boosted by the involvement of Majed Abusidu and Shareef Adnan on the wings were constantly threatening the Terek Grozny goal. Ismail Al-Amour hit one back after some heads up play just after the whistle. Fahed Attal scored a beauty after a quickly taken free kick.

I will post highlights, pictures, and more analysis when I get the chance.

Friday, June 5, 2009

FIFA lifts age restrictions, Palestine stands to benefit

Good news from this week's FIFA summit in the Bahamas. It seems that players who have been capped at youth level for one team will be able to switch allegiances after the age of 21. Previously players such as the Sharbini brothers will be able to play for Palestine despite having represented Croatia at youth level and despite being over 21 years of age. The older of the two brothers, Ahmad would be a realistic target for the national team since his career has been average and has not figured in the plans of numerous Croatian national team managers. The younger and more famous of the two, Anas Sharbini, has been tracked by teams in Holland, England, and Germany and was called up as alternate to the Euro 2008 squad last year.

That said, this decision opens up the possibility of capping a number of players from across the world who have been capped and discarded by other national teams. We shall wait and see what the PFA decides to do with this opportunity but this decision comes at a time when the national team has not capped certain foreign based players (Edgardo Abdala, Omar Jarun, Imad Zatara, and Roberto Kettlun come to mind) preferring instead to hand opportunities to players plying their trade in the West Bank Premier League.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Majed Abusidu secures Al-Kathma transfer

Majed Abusidu, subject of much transfer drama, has secured a permanent deal to Al-Kathma of the Kuwaiti Premier League. According to the details printed in the Kuwaiti press Al-Salmiya is set to receive a KD 35,000 ($133,000) transfer fee for the player. The contract will run for two years and Abusidu is set to receive a monthly salary of KD 1400 ($5,320).