Friday, July 31, 2009

Transfer News: Fadi Lafi joins Al-Rifaa Sharqi

Fadi Lafi has joined Al-Rifaa Sharqi of Bahrain on a one year deal. He departs Shabab Al-Ordon after a one-year stay with club. This is Lafi's second stint in the Bahraini League, he previously was with Al-Rifaa' in 2007 on a loan where he scored 7 goals in 8 games.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Palestinians Abroad: Keshkesh Scores double on Wehdat Debut

Ahmed Keshkesh sparkled on his Wehdat debut in the Jordanian Shield Cup netting a double and creating two other goals in 56 minutes before being taken off at the hour mark. Fellow Palestinian also featured prominently in the match playing all 90 minutes in an 8-0 win. The win means that Wehdat will advance to play the third-place game against a team yet unknown (possibly Fahed Attal's Al-Jazeera or Fadi Lafi's Shabab Al-Ordon).

Fahed Attal meanwhile has bagged two goals in five games with Al-Jazeera in the inaugural tournament.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Transfer News: Leonardo Zamora to sign with Al-Masry

Palestinian-Chilean Goalkeeper Leonardo Zamora is en route to Egypt to sign with Al-Masry of Port Said according to the club's official website and various Spanish language sources. Zamora was one of the players brought into the side by Nicola Shahwan he made his first appearances in the 2002 Arab Nations Cup, he briefly unseated a young Ramzi Saleh during the Shahwan period. 

We wish Leo the best in his new adventure and look forward to seeing him face-off against Ramzi Saleh when Al-Ahly and Al-Masry meet this season. 

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Palestinians Abroad: Mustafa on the move, Keshkesh seals deal with Wehdat, Sharbini Bros. power Reijka in Europa League....

Daniel Kabir Mustafa, an Argentine defender very much on the radar of national team scouts has sealed a move to Spanish Segunda side SD Huesca. He is expected to walk straight into the starting line-up after impressing last season with Portuguese Superliga side Estrella Amadora. 

Ahmed Keshkesh, meanwhile, has finally sealed his move to Jordanian Premier League Champions Wehdat. He put pen to paper earlier this week, you can see the visual proof on Wehdat's official website.

Both Ahmad and Anas Sharbini found the back of the net helping their Croatian side NK Riejka overturn a 1-0 loss t0 Differdange in the first leg to win 3-1 on aggregate. Riejka will face Ukrainian side Metalist in the third round later this week. 

Al-Ahly of Egypt, have been on the wrong end of two schellackings this week. Losing 5-0 to Celtic and 4-1 to Barcelona. No worries for Ramzi Saleh (EDIT: Ramzi was ruled out of the Wembley Cup due to a knee injury, he also did not feature in the Supercup against Haras Al-Hadood) though, Amir Abelhamid was between the sticks for both meetings and did very little to convince the new manager of his abilities before being carried off after Eidur Gudjohnsen knocked him the back of the head. Ahmad Adel Abdel-Mun'im came on and promptly conceded another goal. We're thinking that Al- Ahly should stick to the 3-5-2 formation and keep Ramzi Saleh (whose saves were crucial in Al-Ahly staving off Al-Imsaily for the title) in goal. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Transfer News & Speculation: Wehdat to re-open Keshkesh talks, Bahdari gets 3-year extension

Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad is reporting that talks to move Ahmed Keshkesh to the Jordanian Capital have been re-opened by Wehdat. This comes on the heels of Wehdat's failure to sign Libyan striker Osama Al-Fazani.

The player is expected to arrive in Amman tomorrow (IDF border control permitting) to train with the club but the transfer will only be concluded if a transfer fee can be agreed with his WBPL club Shabab Al-Amari'. Keshkesh has already agreed to join the club on a one-year deal worth $40,000. 

Meanwhile, Abdelatif Bahdari's stock continues to rise, just days after joining the Jordanian Premier League Champions, Bahdari was promptly given a three-year extension on his current one-year $40,000 contract.  Bahdari has yet to play in an official game with Wehdat but his commanding presence during the training sessions have convinced Manager Adel Yousef that Bahdari is the man to anchor Wehdat's defence for years to come. 

AFC World Cup Qualifying Format Announced


"The AFC Competitions Committee has decided to use the present qualification format for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

The top five teams from the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be given direct entry into the third round while the remaining 38 teams will play home and away in the opening round.

The 11 highest-ranked teams from the second round will be given direct entry into the third round while the lowest eight teams will qualify for Round 2.

After playing home-and-away in the second round, four winners will join the top five teams and 11 qualifiers in the third round where they will be divided into five groups of four teams each.

The winners and runners of each group will qualify for the final round where the 10 teams will be divided into two groups of five teams each. 

The group winners and runners-up will make it to the 2014 FIFA World Cup while the third-placed team in each group will be engaged in a two-tiered play-off for a place in the Finals."

What does this mean for Palestine? Well not much has changed from the 2010 format, the AFC is still unfairly favoring the top 5 teams in the region. Palestine will play a first round match no matter what, who they play depends on their ranking. In order to avoid the better teams they will need to improve their ranking (currently 35th in the AFC 175 in the world) to at least 24th in the AFC (around the 140s in the FIFA rankings). They have just about a year to pull it off, so here's hoping we start organizing real friendlies and calling up our best players.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

China 3 - 1 Palestine

Palestine falls again. I didn't get a chance to see the match, but all the goals came in the second half. Palestine scored the last goal, from the penalty spot through Ahmad Keshkesh, who scored his 5th international goal in 28 appearances.  

Check this out

Abdelrahman alFar who goes by "Mr Palestine" on kooora compiled a Palestine stats archive covering performance, caps and goalscorers since 1998. Definitely worth a look...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Transfer News & Speculation: Unknown Gazan earns trial with Al-Masry, Emad "Abu El-Khair" Ayoub set to return to National Team?

The notoriously unreliable Atlas Sport is reporting that after a six-year absence, one-time wunderkind Emad Ayoub is set to return to the national side. Well, according to the paper it's only a five-year absence (I'm pretty sure the last time Emad Ayoub played for Palestine was in a 2-1 Asian Cup Qualifying loss to Kuwait in 2003). The article also goes on to state that the player wants to participate in the game against China. Make of it what you wish, but the team has already departed Egypt and has arrived in China. I doubt Ayoub is on that plane and quite frankly I doubt he is playing professional football. There is absolutely no news about him out there, all the pages that google brings up are from 2003 and the team he is allegedly affiliated with (Al-Sharqiya) have been relegated to the third division. 

My epic google search for information on Emad Ayoub's situation brought me to discover an unknown Gazan- Mahmoud Neerab, a 20-year-old midfielder who plies his trade with Khidamat Rafah in Gaza. According to more than one source, Neeran has been awarded a trial with Port Said club Al-Masry (finished 8th of 16 teams last season in the Egyptian Premier League). This news isn't the freshest, most the articles are from mid-June, but on July 9th various news sources reported that the player has had trouble crossing into Egypt. A situation which prompted officials at Al-Masry to call on FA President Jibril Rajoub for assistance in solving the matter. We will keep you posted on any updates regarding the matter, but as of now, the player remains in Gaza (surprise). 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Palestine to face China shorthanded, Bahdari border troubles

The Palestinian National team's squad will be without Ismail Amour, Majed Abusidu, Fadi Lafi, Abdelatif Bahdari, Husam Wadi, and Husam Ziyadeh. Ziyadeh, Wadi, and Amour will be missing through injuries picked up against Iraq on Monday. Fadi Lafi has had to return to start Shabab Al-Ordon's Jordanian Premier League campaign, Majed Abusidu is similarly committed. Part of the problem was that these friendlies were organized on a whim, we heard about these friendlies at the beginning of July, meaning that club sides were given a week's notification- hardly a professional way of handling business because of this Fahed Attal and Mohammed Shatrit had to reject the call-up. 

But wait it gets worse. So Mr. Jibril Rajoub who has extensive political connections, including connections with the occupying force known as Israel and the IDF, can enter and leave the West Bank as he pleases. In fact, instead of being harrassed and questioned for hours like any tourist or resident of the West Bank he crosses the Allenby Bridge much like most people cross state lines in Europe. You would think he'd use this muscle to help one of his most promising players.... but no, of course not. 

I reported in the comments section on Monday that Abdelatif Bahdari had in fact been allowed to cross into Jordan to join up with his new club- Wehdat (Reigning champions of the Jordanian Premier League and two-time AFC Cup finalists) but this is not true. Palestinian TV, had reported that Bahdari had been allowed entry on Sunday, but it has come to my attention that he has been turned back three times since his first trip to the border. When Rajoub got the FA job many of us thought that he could use his political leverage to help the team out. We thought we had seen the end of players being rejected exit/entry visas and we were looking forward to an era where we would play every match we scheduled at full strength. Well, we thought wrong. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thoughts/Rants on Palestine's tour of Iraq

For those of you hoping to see a Palestinian score this week I invite you to click here.... and here

Oh... wait... that's Mexico. Yes, but that's Miguel Sabah, a player that we could have capped years ago when El Tri wasn't even aware of his existence. But no... why would we do that? That would actually constitute trying which Rajoub and Co. are vehemently opposed to. In essence, our trip to Iraq and the 3-0 and 4-0 losses are not the fault of the players. How could you fault a group of players who barely have any international experience. The majority of the squad came into today with 2 international caps or less. Most of us had no idea who they were this time last year. Yes, they held their own against minnows Nepal and Kyrgyzstan but how could you expect them to get a result against the reigning Asian Champs? Allow me to illustrate the number of official caps these players had headed into these games: 

GK Mohammed Shbair (3)
GK Abdallah Saidawi (2)
GK Assam Abu Asi (0)

Compare that with Ramzi Saleh... remember him? The second most capped player in our history? The guy who tends the net for Al-Ahly one of the biggest clubs in the world. Yeah he has 62 caps. 

Hisham Al-Salhi has never played for us before neither has Mustafa Abu Kweik, Husam Ziyadeh, Ahmad Abdullah, Asad Abu Asl, Yahya Barda, and Hussein Jawhar. 

Mohammed Abdel-Jawad despite being 30 years of age, doesn't have 5 caps to his name, Ammar Abuseliesel has featured once. Ma'ly Kawre' and Maen Obeid have featured twice against Nepal and Kyrgyzstan. Husam Wadi has a couple of caps to his name Khadr Yousef has played 3 times for Palestine and Said Sobakhi 4 times. The only form of experience is in the form of Keshkesh who was forced onto the pitch short of fitness (25 caps), Fadi Lafi (33 caps), and Abdelatif Bahdari (who didn't feature) (7 caps). 

So just to review: 
8 uncapped players
9 players with less than 5 caps 
1 player with 7 caps who didn't feature
2 players with 25+ caps 1 of whom was short of match fitness.

What kind of joke is this?!? Well I'll tell you who gained in the end, I'm sure Jibril Rajoub who took the opportunity to be interviewed by Al-Iraqiyya in the middle of the ass-whoopin' has lined his pockets with money from this deal. The only reason he is even near the team is to get his dirty hands on some FIFA money and now that he has Sepp Blatter duped I'm sure he is rolling in it. We could use that money to compensate players that have been injured for their expenses (we didn't have the money to do so for Emad Ayoub and he refused to play for us again), or cover our cost of travel for friendlies, or re-invest in the game locally. But where does this money go? Rajoub's pockets! If we were ever serious about winning a game our sqaud would look like this: 

GK: Ramzi Saleh (Al-Ahly Egypt), Mohammed Shbair (Shabab Al-Amari', Palestine) 

D: Majed Abusidu (LB, Kazma Kuwait), Abdelatif Bahdari (CB, Wehdat, Jordan), Roberto Bishara (CB, Palestino Chile), Omar Jarun (CB, Flota Swinoujscie, Poland div 1), Mohammed Abdel-Jawad (Al-Birah, Palestine), Shareef Adnan (LB, Al-Faisaly, Jordan), Ismail Amour (RB, Al-Dhariah, Palestine)

M: Imad Zatara (LM, Syrianska, Sweden div 1), Roberto Kettlun (RM, Brindisi, Italy Serie C2), Mohammed Samara (CM, Petrojet, Egypt), Edgardo Abdala (DM, Huachipato, Chile), Mohammed Shatrit (M, JA Drancy, France), +1 more defensive mid. 

F: Fahed Attal (F, Al-Jazira, Jordan), Fadi Lafi (Shabab Al-Ordon, Jordan), Ahmad Keshkesh (Shabab Al-Amari', Palestine)

You see that? That's an 18-man squad capable of competing with Iraq, what we sent was the equivalent of sending lambs to the slaughter. I stress that this may only be a friendly but it is damn important to do something about our FIFA ranking. The revised format has not been kind to us, coupled with months of inactivity we dropped to 180 our lowest ranking since the early days. We need to boost that ranking to improve our seeding for FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and Asian Challenge Cup Qualifiers. Also if we are not a bottom feeder in the FIFA AFC rankings we can double-dip and play in the Challenge Cup AND Asian Cup Qualifiers. But what do we know, all hail Mighty all-knowing Rajoub! The best thing to happen to Palestinian Football. 

Palestine vs Iraq Commentary

No, this isn't a double post, we're playing the same team for the second time in three days! Join us live from 5 pm GMT and follow live updates in the comments sections. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Iraq vs. Palestine: Initial Reaction/Rant

For those of you with a sadistic streak you can watch highlights of Iraq's 3-0 win here. 

Ah what can we say about this game? Well, Abdel-Rahman is going to follow up with a detailed match report so I'm going to take this opportunity to rant, again. I really do not understand what is going on with the team right now, I don't understand why we hire a coach and then promptly depart to play three friendlies without him. I also don't get why play the same team in the same country in the space of three days. But most of all, I don't understand the squad selection and the scheduling... this team has no direction and no goal, quite frankly we have regressed and are playing some of the worst football since we joined FIFA in 1998 despite having more talent at our disposal than ever before. 

Let me ask you this, say Sepp Blatter called tomorrow and told us that North Korea's FA had been suspended and decided that we should take their place. Which 23 players would you call up? I don't think any Palestine team is complete without the following players:

Ramzi Saleh (GK, Al-Ahly Egypt), Majed Abusidu (LB, Kazma Kuwait), Abdelatif Bahdari (CB, Wehdat, Jordan), Roberto Bishara (CB, Palestino Chile), Omar Jarun (CB, Flota Swinoujscie, Poland div 1), Imad Zatara (LM, Syrianska, Sweden div 1), Roberto Bishara (RM, Brindisi, Italy Serie C2), Mohammed Samara (CM, Petrojet, Egypt), Edgardo Abdala (DM, Huachipato, Chile), Fahed Attal (F, Al-Jazira, Jordan).

That's a core of 11 players, all of whom were not even called up for the friendlies this month. To make matters worse, there are players on that list that have not featured for us in years. No wonder we haven't won a game since 2006 and couldn't even qualify for the 2010 Challenge Cup. There are other decent players that featured yesterday that should be staples in our squad: Mohmmed Shbair (GK, Al-Amari, Palestine) has cemented his position as a solid number 2, Mohammed Abdel-Jawad (CB, Al-Birah, Palestine) is a capable squad player and has partnered Bahdari to great success in the past, Shareef Adnan (RB, Al-Faisaly, Jordan) was the best outfield player yesterday and was a menace on the right-hand side in the Terek Grozny friendly. Ahmed Keshkesh (M/F, Al-Amari, Palestine) and Fadi Lafi (F, Shabab Al-Ordon, Jordan) need no  introduction and Ismail Amour (M, Al-Dhariah, Palestine) has been a consistent performer for years. Mohammed Shatrit (M, JA Drancy, France) has looked the part in unofficial friendlies against FC Brussels, Gencerbirligi, and Terek Grozny. 

If the World Cup began tomorrow, I think the players I just listed should be locks for the squad. For whatever reason we seemed to have forgotten about their existence altogether. We have also ceased trolling the world to unearth talent like we used to. My hope is that after we get served two more times next week is that Moussa Bezaz returns to doing business the old ways. Scheduling friendlies on FIFA dates, calling up our best players, and unearthing talent at home and abroad. Because I seriously doubt we gain anything by getting our asses kicked three times in eight days with kids who have never played a full international before. 

Iraq vs. Palestine Commentary

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Iraq vs. Palestine Preview

With Palestine set to face Iraq in Arbil in less than 24 hours we can finally confirm the players that have been invited to participate:

GK: Mohammed Shbair, Assem Abu Asi, Abdullah Al-Saidawi

Mohmmed Abdel-Jawad, Mustafa Abu-Kweik, Ammar Abu Seliesel, Khader Yousef, Ma'ly Kawre', Ismail Amour, Ahmed Keskesh, Murad Ismail, Shareef Adnan, Maen Obeid, Fahed Attal, Said Sobakhi, Husam Ziyadeh, Ahmed Abdallah, Husam Wadi, Asad Abu Asal, Yahya Badra, Husain Jawhar, Fadi Lafi, Hisham Al-Salhi.

The match will kick-off at 19:30 Local Time (17:30 GMT) and will be broadcast on Palestine TV, Iraqi Sport (Al-Riyadiyah), ART Sport 2, and Al-Sumariyah.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coach Mousa Bezaz Arrives

Not as extravagant as Cristiano Ronaldo's reception at Madrid.

The PFA held a welcoming party for new head coach Mousa Bezaz who will spend a couple of weeks in Palestine to develop his goals with the national team. He will not be joining the squad on the trips to Iraq and China (coaching staff will manage without head coach).

PS. Anyone have an idea how his name is pronounced in Arabic? Could be Bazzaz...

[UPDATE]: He will coach vs China

A Look Back: Palestine v Iraq

Asian Cup qualifiers, World Cup qualifiers, West Asian Games, you name 8 encounters, Iraq is the team we have faced the most in the last decade. A detailed archive can be found here at kooora.

As evident, Iraq has had the clear upper hand winning six of the matches. But lets look at the other two which were, to say the least, memorable to Palestinian fans...

31/03/04 World Cup Qualifier - Doha, Qatar

In the 2006 World Cup Qualifiers, Palestine and Iraq were drawn together alongside Taiwan and Uzbekistan. This was Palestine's second attempt at qualifying after being re-affiliated in 1998 and they opened their qualifying campaign impressively, drubbing Taiwan 8-0 in Doha(both Palestine and Iraq used Doha as home in these qualifiers though Palestine was the designated home team in this match).
Iraq opened in the 20th minute through Razzaq Farhan's header. Then in the second half at minute 72, Roberto Kettlun drove a brilliant free kick into the net.

(Note: Person who uploaded the video dubbed it with unrelated commentary. Clearer shot of the goal can be found in this vid @ 1:45)

The free kick was Kettlun's finest moment in his international career and it gave him hero status among fans who dubbed him, المايسترو('The Maestro') and الساحر(~Magician). With this draw, Palestine topped the group until qualifiers resumed in June.

06/09/06 Asian Cup Qualifier - Al-Ain, UAE

In the 2007 Asian Cup qualifiers, Palestine and Iraq were drawn in Group E with China and Singapore. This was the 'return leg' of the match played in Amman a few weeks before where Iraq won 3-0(where I watched painfully from the stands).
Following that defeat and missing the South American contingent, Palestine were clearly not favorites and needed a result to have any chance of qualifying.

Fifteen minutes in, Tayseer Amer took advantage of a defensive error and put Palestine in the lead. Saeb Jendeya led the defense against the Iraqi onslaught that followed and, thanks to the ultra-defensive play, they successfully held the Iraqi's back through the first half. However in the second half, Saleh Sudair took a shot which deflected off Jendeya and sent Ramzi Saleh the wrong way, equalising the score. Iraq then took the lead with a trademark Hawar Mulla Mohamed free kick. By then it seemed all over for Palestine but another Iraqi defensive error put them back in the game. After receiving a long pass across the field from Majed Abusidu, Tayseer Amer crossed the ball into the box. Keeper Serhank Mohsen jumped for the ball but collided with Ali Nassar and mishandled it, and it fell at the feet of Ismail Amour who put it in the roof of the net.
When the referee blew the final whistle I felt like I had gotten off a roller coaster. This result meant that we needed to beat China in Amman and get a result against Singapore to qualify to the Asian Cup. Needless to say, that didn't happen. Oh, and Iraq went on to win the Asian Cup.

On Friday we are playing Iraq in Arbil. Let us look forward to a good match where the team can benefit and whatever the result, we can congratulate Iraq on their return to home soil.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Transfer News: Wehdat capture Bahdari, but not Keshkesh

Jordan's Al-Ghad newspaper reports that Abdelatif Bahdari has secured his move to Wehdat on a one year deal that will see his WBPL team- Hilal Jericho- receive a $40,000 transfer fee. Ahmed Keshkesh's move, on the other hand, has stalled as Shabab Al-Amari have refused a $30,000 transfer fee from Al-Wehdat. He is set to continue in the WBPL for another year after spending the second half of last season on loan at Shabab Al-Ordon.

EDIT: Transfer Amount, unknown, the amounts quoted above reflect the players' yearly wages.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

PFA Website: Press Conference Sunday

Jibril Rajub is set to give a press conference at 12:30pm local time at the PFA headquarters. Hopefully we'll get clarifications on the Iraq and China matches. We'll keep this post update.

Atlas Sport
  • Rajub confirmed that the Iraq match is on the 10th of July in Arbil
  • The China match was also confirmed: July 18 and a second match in Palestine in September

"Palestine to play Iraq in Arbil"

There is no word from the PFA website yet, but Palestinian, Iraqi and other Arab media are reporting that Palestine will play Iraq this month. Specifically on the 13th of July. As you might recall there was talk of such a match earlier this year. The plan seems to have been for two matches to be played in Baghdad and Arbil(Atlas Sport), but I got this email from an Iraqi reader(thanks Hassanin):

I read your blog, just wanted to say that there has been some news reports in the Iraqi media that Palestine will play Iraq in Arbil (the first international inside Iraq since 2002).
There was to have been two friendlies (the other on July 6 in Baghdad) but the PFA president said that because of the lack of time and the pending friendly with China, only one match will be played.
Iraq has named Nadhim Shaker and a 25 man squad especially for the friendly match, and another match the following month against Tanzania (in Baghdad on August 12).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

IDF detains Ismail Amour

Atlas Sport reports that Ismail Amour has been detained by the Israeli Defense Force at a checkpoint in the West Bank. The IDF are now holding Amour in an unspecified location with the intent to deport him to Gaza. Amour has been playing his club football in the West Bank Premier League for Al-Dhahriah after the suspension of the Gazan league. It is assumed that he and other Gaza-based players came to the West Bank with the help of the powerful and sleazy PFA President Jibril Rajoub. We only hope that Rajoub uses some of his influence for good and secures the release of Ismail.