Friday, January 28, 2011

Interview with I Luv Football

Here's my interview with our fellow blogger Khanage of I Luv Football. We spoke about the domestic league, promising Palestinian players, and the national team.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

World Cup Seedings Announced

The AFC has announced the seeding for the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. The format of the qualifying tournament will mirror that of the 2010 edition, meaning Palestine's campaign could last anywhere from two to twenty-four games (if they qualify through the intercontinental playoff spot). Australia, Japan, Korea Republic, Korea DPR, and Bahrain have all been given byes into the third round.

The first round of qualifying will be played over two matches, home and away on the June 29th and July 3rd. Here are Palestine's possible opponents:

6. Saudi Arabia, 7. Iran, 8. Qatar, 9. Uzbekistan, 10. UAE, 11. Syria, 12. Oman, 13. Jordan, 14. Iraq, 15. China, 16. Singapore, 17. Kuwait, 18. Turkmenistan, 19. Thailand, 20. Lebanon, 21. Yemen, 22. Tajikistan, 23. Hong Kong, 24. Indonesia.

Palestine is ranked 36th, which means no matter what the result of the other first round matches, they will participate in the second round of qualifying on the 23rd and 28th of July.

Any team you hope to avoid? Or is there one you are hoping we draw? Let us know with a comment.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tanzania friendly set for February 9th

Palestine and Tanzania have agreed to a friendly on February 9th, an official FIFA date, in Dar es Salaam. The match has been confirmed by Tanzanian and Palestinian media but has yet to appear on the FIFA website. As we know these friendlies can sometimes be cancelled abruptly, but the fact that it is being hosted in Tanzania means there are fewer logistical hurdles to overcome.

So the friendly calendar before the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in March looks like this:
@ Tanzania (09/02/11)
@ Pakistan (27/02/11)
@ Pakistan (02/03/11)

Mousa Bezaz will hand list of 50 players to the AFC. He has announced a squad of 40 players and will fill out the rest of the squad before he starts whittling down his squad to 22 players for the Challenge Cup. There is no word on who he will take with him to Tanzania and Pakistan as of yet. The squad includes 9 players plying their trade abroad, the most notable absence is that of captain Ramzi Saleh, scheduled to go under the knife on February 6th to repair ligaments in his ACL. Bezaz has included some new faces in the form of Lebanese duo Mohammed Abu Ateeq and Mustafa Hallaq.

Bezaz's list also included 12 Gazans who play in the WBPL. Historically, these players are the ones that often find themselves unable to leave the territory due to arbitrary Israeli regulations. We have included them below in red:

Fahed Attal, Abdelatif Bahdari, Ahmed Keshkesh [All Wehdat, Jordan], Mohammed Samara (Arab Contractors, Egypt), Majed Abusidu (Tadamon, Kuwait), Roberto Bishara (Palestino, Chile), Imad Zatara (Syrianska, Sweden), Mustafa Hallaq (Al-Ahed, Lebanon), Mohammed Abu Ateeq (Shabab Al-Ghazieh, Lebanon)

Ma'ly Kawre' (MF), Suleiman Obeid (MF), Eyad Abugharqud (FW), Khaled Mahdi (DF), Ayman Al-Hendi (MF)

Shabab Al-Khaleel
Mohammed Shbair (GK), Raed Fares (DF), Mohammed Shatrit (FW)

Jabal Al-Mokaber
Asim Abu Asi (GK), Musa Abu Jazr (FW), Ismail Al-Amour (MF), Ammar Abuseliesel (DF), Husam Wadi (MF), Shadi Alan (FW), Jamal Alan (FW), Ra'fit Ayad (DF), Samer Hijazi (DF)

Hilal Al-Quds
Abdullah Saidawi (GK), Haitham Dheeb (DF), Husam Abu Saleh (MF), Murad Ismail (MF), Hesham Salhe (MF), Murad Alyan (FW)

Wadi Al-Nes
Khader Youssef (FW), Ashraf Nu'man (FW)

Atef Abu Bilal (MF), Hany Abu Bilal (MF)

Mohammed Jamal Jebereen (FW), Mohammed Nael (FW)

Thaqafi Tulkarem
Fahed Al-Fakhuri (GK)

Saed Abu Sleem (GK)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In solidarity with Mamdouh Hamamreh

We try to keep politics out of this blog. But we feel it our duty to stand with our fellow journalists. Mamdouh Hamamreh, a journalist for Al-Quds TV, is going to be put on trial for insulting a public official because of something he said on Facebook.

We've insulted our thuggish FA President- Jibril Rajoub- more than once. Let me clarify my position concerning this donkey: he is corrupt, sleazy scum. The worst the Palestinian Authority has to offer and he is only in charge of the FA to boost his own ego and because he failed to convince Israel to install him in place of Yasser Arafat. He makes his subordinates praise him in every interview, yet in his glorious tenure the National Team has managed a whopping ZERO wins.

We will continue to exercise our freedom of speech on this blog and we will liberally insult public officials when the opportunity presents itself.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thoughts on the Asian Cup

So, Palestine isn't at the Asian Cup, but I think we can learn some valuable lessons about where we stand on the continental stage. For our readers in Europe, this tournament is available on Eurosport2, for North American readers... you'll have to make due with a grainy stream.

This is the first Asian Cup to feature the winners of the Asian Challenge Cup. The two teams that punched their ticket to Qatar vis-a-vis that tournament are India and Korea DPR. Both teams probably did just enough during this tournament to ensure that the AFC doesn't reconsider that move. There are also many opponents in this tournament that followers of Palestinian football will be familiar with. Most notably, Iraq and Jordan. Here's our take on the tournament thus far:

India: Perhaps the only true developing association at the tournament, India met expectations they leave Qatar without a single point having conceded 13 goals in three games. The Bhangra Boys did show some valiant play and managed to score three goals. Their play was positive but their defending was shambolic evidence of a local league that has only been around for four years. Watching India, you can't help but think how Palestine would fare in this tournament. I have to say, that with a proper training camp and some pre-tournament friendlies, Palestine would be a competent team at this tournament. Whether or not they would manage a point in a group featuring Korea Republic, Australia, and Bahrain is questionable. But a defence featuring Bahdari, Bishara, and Abusidu would keep things competitive.

Korea DPR: This is not the same team that qualified for the World Cup. They still defend superbly but they lack the counterattacking bite of previous squads. The problem with this team is that they have no plan B. They went down to early Iraq and showed very little intent to attack the Iraqis. I still think this is the team to beat in the Challenge Cup, but their formula for winning isn't exactly groundbreaking.

Iraq: For whatever reason, Palestine and Iraq are always drawn in the same group. Its like the two oppressed peoples who cannot play home games are kindred spirits, joined at the hip. The last time Palestine faced Iraq there were stretches were Palestine played competently at times with a weakened squad. They lost 3-0 but really gifted Iraq two of their goals. Without Bahdari and Bishara anchoring the defence Palestine and without the attacking talents of Samara, Shatrit, Zatara, and an injured El-Amour it was never going to be close.

Iraq may not be as good as they were four years ago. But they were good enough to get out of a difficult group that included Iran, Korea DPR, and the UAE. No matter what happens in their quarterfinal matchup with Australia it is safe to say that Iraq is still one of the best in Asia. If I were to rank Asian sides I'd place them right behind Korea Republic, Japan, Australia, and Iran.

Jordan: What to say about our overachieving neighbors? With the excpetion of Odai Al-Saify none of the players in this squad plies their trade in Europe, 18 out of the 23 play in Jordan. I think Jordan has more depth than Palestine, but if you want to talk about talent amongst the best 15 players... it's Palestine hands down. Think of it this way: Kehskesh, Attal, and Bahdari all play for the best team in Jordan and Bahdari is without a doubt the best defender in the league. Just think about the amount of players we have that could play for Wehdat: Ramzi Saleh, Shareef Adnan, Omar Jarun, Roberto Bishara, Mohammed Samara, Imad Zatara, Ismail Amour, and Suleiman Obeid could easily claim a place in that squad.

So what makes them better than us? Well, they can host home games and we can't. Jordan had 1 point halfway through qualifying, a home draw against Thailand. In the second half, Jordan bagged 7 points out of a possible 9, with two home wins. Quite simply, this team is an entirely different creature away from home. If Jordan couldn't host games they would be watching this tournament on television. They also rode their luck during this tournament. An own goal against Japan gave them a point, a goalkeeping error against a dysfunctional Saudi side gave them a win, a goalkeeping error AND an own goal gave them a win against a superior Syrian side. Jordan aren't a positive footballing side, they aren't better on the ball than we are, and quite frankly we can put together a team far more capable of creating scoring chances.

Palestine are not that far off. That is what this tournament shows us, we probably won't beat the big boys anytime soon but we can hold our own against most sides in this tournament. We drew UAE in October of '09 and drew Jordan in Al-Ram the last time we met. Our Olympic team has been just as good, if not better than their Jordanian counterparts. What's holding us back are our circumstances we can't host qualifying games and it is very difficult for us to put together a first choice squad and a proper training camp. Despite all this, I feel confident in our chance of getting to this tournament through the Challenge Cup. I guess we'll know more about where we stand in a couple of months time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Palestinians Abroad: Winter Transfer Window

Mohammed Shatrit has joined Shabab Al-Khaleel from French 4th division side JA Drancy. He is expected to replace Hussam Ziyadeh who recently signed with league leading Hilal Al-Quds. The financial element of the deal were not disclosed but it is suspected that Shatrit was allowed to leave Drancy on a free. He is also expected to be one of the better compensated players in the league. The move will allow Shatrit to be available for all National Team activities.

Departing from the WBPL after a forgettable six months is Fadi Lafi. Lafi only managed to notch up four league goals in 11 games. A disappointing return for someone with such an illustrious career with Jordan's Big Three (Faisaly, Shabab Al-Ordon, and Wehdat). The veteran attacker will be joining Omani side Saham after being granted a release by Hilal Al-Quds. Lafi had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave on a free transfer if he was given a more financially lucrative contract by another club. Saham currently lie in fifth place in the Omani

Over in Chile, defensive midfielder Edgardo Abdala has joined Santiago Morning on a Bosman from Huachipato. Abdala will be looking to help the team improve on last year's performance which saw Morning narrowly avoid relegation. The Chilean Apertura starts on January 29th.

In Italy, Roberto Kettlun has yet another new club. He'll be joining Casarano of Serie D, it is his FIFTH Serie D club in the past two years. He scored once in four appearances for Olmypia Agnonese. Virtus Casarano is currently in third place in their group and in the hunt for promotion to Serie C2.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with Hicham Ali

We've reported before on the young talents plying their trade abroad and have lobbied for them to be called up to the national team. Well it seems that the FA thanks to the efforts of Olympic Team coach The Dinosaur has finally caught on. In November, Jehad Neshbit who plays professionally in Sweden was named in the Asian Games squad. Hicham Ali- was also due to appear but was tied to his club Malmö FF whose reserve team was participating in the U19 Swedish Cup.

Our friends at interviewed Hicham, we've translated the interesting parts below:

The Palestinian fans want to know more about you-

My name is Hicham Ali, I was born in [1991] Malmö in southern Sweden. It is the city famous for producing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and I play for the club where he started his career- Malmö FF. And of course, my family comes from the villages that surround Safed.

What is your preferred position on the pitch?

Honestly, I can play any position across midfield but my preferred position is on the left wing. I specialize in powerful shots with my left foot.

But we have seen you play two matches in the quarterfinals of the Swedish Cup and you were helping out a lot in defence...

Yes that is true. I am the captain of my team and I hate to lose so I'm willing to help out in defence or attack in order to get the win.

You recently received an invitation to join Palestine's Olympic Camp. Where you at all expecting this?

Yes, I was and I didn't hesitate in accepting the call up. I won't lie to you either I was on the verge of being capped by Sweden at youth level.... It is a great feeling to be called up. I feel very proud to represent my glorious country- Palestine.

Did your invitation come at the right time or do you think it has been delayed?

No, not at all. I was called up to the Asian Games squad but Malmö FF didn't release me because we were competing in the u19 Swedish Cup because they needed my services and because I was the captain of the squad.... I accepted the invitation because I feel the responsibility to bring cheer to our resilient people and to raise Palestinian football to the height of heights.

You're one of the players of the diaspora, the fans are still waiting to see you play...

I've learned a lot in the youth ranks of Malmö from a skill and tactical standpoint. I know how to implement a manager's instructions on the pitch. Hopefully I'll be able to show my worth to the fans. I faced a lot of difficulty initially in Malmö and there was a fierce competition for places. It wasn't until the arrival of Thomas Køberg (A former assistant of Lars Laagerback, who coached Sweden and more recently, Nigeria) that I got a chance to prove myself. I went on to win the championship with the U17 squad and in November the Cup with the U19 team as its captain.

What's your future with Malmö FF? Will we soon be seeing you in the first team?

I'm currently with the U19 team and I serve as its captain and I have recently signed a new contract with Malmö FF. I was also told by Roland Nilsson that I'd be getting an opportunity with the first team, who won the league last year, very soon. I'm waiting for that opportunity and I want to prove myself here despite offers from other clubs.

What are the other offers you have received?

I received several offers from teams in the Allsvenskan but Malmö FF rejected all of them because they categorically refuse to sell players to direct rivals. There have been some offers from Superettan clubs, most notably was an off from Landskrona- the club that is coached by Henrik Larsson. The move was supposed to be a loan deal but after a long period of negotiations, Malmö decided not to accept the offer.

What have you learned as a professional in Sweden?

It's very different mentality than you find in the Arab World. That's due to the difference in abilities and the resources available. I was given an opportunity here in the youth ranks and I got to play against Juventus and other top teams in Italy as a part of a preseason training tour. The Juventus manager spoke highly of my performance in the game against his team

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ramzi Saleh to undergo surgery on knee

Ramzi Saleh recently revealed an ACL injury that he has played with for over 10 years and has elected to undergo surgery to repair the problem. As a result, Haras El-Hodoud have elected to cancel the 18-month contract previously agreed upon between the two parties.

Saleh went on the Egyptian program Modern Koora to announce the move. He cited the examples of Essam El-Hadary and Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan as players who successfully underwent the operation and made successful returns to football. Former El-Ahly goalkeeping coach Ahmed Nagy was also invited on the program and stressed that the injury hadn't prevented Ramzi from preforming at a high level during training.

The move seems to be one designed to prolong the Palestine captain's playing career. It also gives the keeper a chance to clear up any concerns clubs may have about the injury and shop himself around once the window opens up again in the summer.

Ramzi Saleh is expected to be out 4-6 months and will miss the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in March. He has stated his intention to be back for World Cup Qualifiers, which are currently slated to kick off in July.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

FA sets up friendlies, training camp ahead of Challenge Cup Qualifiers.

Thanks to Jonny for first pointing this out to us and Amin confirming that the matches now appear on the FIFA website.

Palestine will play two friendlies against Pakistan in Karachi and Lahore on the 27th of February and the second of March, respectively. The team will then hold a training camp in Kuwait and also play a friendly against the Kuwaiti National Team as preparation for the Challenge Cup Qualifiers.

Meawhile, the Olympic team will train in Qatar from the second to the 17th of February ahead of their Olympic Qualifier with Thailand. They will play their Qatari counterparts as well as two clubs in friendlies before setting off to Thailand.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ramzi Saleh signs with Harras Al-Hodoud

National Team captain Ramzi Saleh has signed an 18-month contract with Egyptian Premier League club Harras Al-Hodoud. The goalkeeper is expected to take over the starting position from Ali Farag who has stepped in after an injury ended Mathurin Kameni's season.

Harras Al-Hodoud currently lie in 11th place at the midway point of the Egyptian season. The second half of the season starts on January 20th. Ramzi Saleh's first game will be against Ismaili, the club he helped Al-Ahly overcome in a playoff to win the title in the 2008/09 season.

Harras Al-Hodoud are the defending Egyptian Cup Champions and will participate in the CAF Confederation Cup. The Alexandria-based club finished in the quarterfinal stage last year.

Ramzi Saleh, Abdullah Saidawi undergoing trials with Egyptian Clubs

As reported on our Twitter page earlier, NT goalkeepers Ramzi Saleh and Abdullah Saidawi or on trial with Haras Al-Hodoud and Zamalek, respectively. Both players are appealing targets due to the fact that they are not counted as foreigners in the Egyptian league. The Egyptian FA allows teams to register up to three foreigners a season.

Saidawi's trial has come as a surprise, the 31 year-old received his first cap in 2009 against Iraq, and is considered the best WBPL goalkeeper along with Mohammed Shbair. If Saidawi does secure a long-term contract he will most likely back up Abdelwahed El-Sayed. Before taking Saidawi on loan, Zamalek was on the verge of signing Ramzi Saleh but the deal fell through at the 11th hour due to differences concerning compensation and (presumably) squad status.

National Team captain Ramzi Saleh is far more likely to sign a long-term contract with Haras Al-Hodoud. The Alexandria-based club is desperate for a goalkeeper after their starter, Mathurin Kameni (older brother of Carlos, of Espanyol) went down for the season with a torn ACL. The club only has one keeper in the squad and is not contracted to any of them after this season. Haras Al-Hodoud have three foreigners registered (Fofo Wisdom of Ghana, Abdoulaye Sidibe of Mali, and the aforementioned Cameroonian Kameni) which limits their search for a backup goalkeeper to Ramzi Saleh, an Egyptian goalkeeper, or the incumbent Ali Farag.

Zamalek lead the Egyptian league on 31 points from 14 games.

Haras Al-Hodoud are in 11th (out of 16 teams) on 17 points 6 points from the relegation zone and 9 points from a spot in the Confederations Cup/Champions League.

We will keep you posted as this story develops...