Friday, August 27, 2010

Professional Football comes to Palestine

Well, it's probably more accurate to label it semi-professional... but either way the West Bank Premier League has returned! This will be the first time some element of professionalism is brought to the game and it could mark uninterrupted league football for the third year running in the Occupied Territories. We reported earlier that some big names have joined the league. Some notable names:

  1. Fadi Lafi (Hilal Al-Quds) who has stared for Wehdat, Shabab Al-Ordon, and Faisaly in Jordan along with a couple of stints in Bahrain.
  2. Hernan Madrid (Wadi Al-Nes) has played for several clubs in the Chilean Primera, most recently donning the colors of Huachipato and Union de Calera. He has one cap to his name having represented Palestine in a World Cup Qualifier against Uzbekistan in 2004.
  3. Hatem Karim (Hilal Al-Quds) The Arab-Israeli debuted against Sudan and impressed greatly. Before moving the Jerusalem club he played in the second-tier of Israeli football with Bnei Lod.
  4. Emad "Abou El-Khair" Ayoub (Wadi Al-Nes) Perhaps most remembered for delivering Palestine its first ever World Cup Qualifying win with this goal against Hong Kong. His career has been marred by injury once on the books of Cairo Giants Zamalek, he has spent the past season playing with Tasnee' of the Third Division.
Of course there are other players to watch out for in this league... Fadi Salím- the winger cum forward- who fans will surely remember as a key squad member of the 2006 Challenge Cup plays for Merkaz Tulkarem. Then there is perhaps the best player in the league- Ismail Amour who also plays for Wadi Al-Nes. On the subject of Wadi Al-Nes expect to hear their name a lot, they were crowned Yasser Arafat Cup Champions this month and followed that up by beating Jabal Al-Mokaber (last season's league champions) in the Super Cup. One would have to think that with all the big names in their ranks they should romp to the title.

We will be keeping you up to date with all the scores on our Twitter account and will try to post the latest standings weekly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Omar Jarun switches allegiances, challenges FIFA ruling

There have been murmurings about the Jordanian FA going after the Sharbini Brothers and Omar Jarun. These rumors were confirmed when we interviewed Majid Balawi last month. It seemed that in the case of Omar Jarun, however, they would be stopped since he had played an official match with the National Team (Palestine's miserable 2007 World Cup Qualifying loss to Singapore). In fact, he probably is the most widely recognized Palestinian player due to the Al-Jazeera English piece that featured an interview with him.

FIFA should be able to catch on to this and prevent Omar Jarun from playing for Jordan. There was speculation that he would be allowed to play because Palestine did not show up for the return leg of that match. I fail to see how that would be the case since the scoreline from the first leg stood, had both matches been scratched then the scoreline would have read (0-6) not (0-7). The question is how quickly FIFA will spot this infraction and what sort of punishment they would levy against the Jordanian FA. Qatar found itself in a similar situation when it played previously Brazil-tied Emerson against Iraq in 2008. Despite the efforts of Iraq to overturn the result of the match, FIFA claimed that they had lodged their complaint after the deadline had passed and failed to pay a $2,900 appeal fee.

I don't expect our FA to do anything that would require such arduous legwork but other FAs might. They might be able to get away with fielding him during the WAFF Championships since they are little more than a series of glorified friendlies but come the 2011 Asian Cup they may not be so lucky.

As for the player himself, all I can say is that I feel sorry for Jarun. This is a player who really wanted to play international football and should have featured a lot more prominently for the team in the past three years. He isn't the best player in the world but he is surely better than a lot of the players that have lined up next to Bahdari. I've read that Jarun had been in contact with Bezaz but that Bezaz has chosen not to call him up, this is seems to be a move born out of frustration with our FA and our manager. Whether or not he will be allowed to switch allegiances remains to be seen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AFC sets date for Olympic, World Cup, and Challenge Cup Qualifying

Palestine's U-23 team will return to competitive action in February the AFC has announced as one of 34 teams vying for 3-4 tickets to London 2012. The first round, a home and away playoff, will take place on February 23rd, 2011 and March 9, 2011. If Palestine emerges victorious, they will play another home and away play-off alongside the 13 highest ranked teams in June, this will be followed by the final round of qualifying were the twelve teams will be placed in three groups of four. Winners will advance directly and second place teams will fight it out for the half-spot.

The Women's Olympic Team already know their opponents for the Olympic tournament drawn in an extremely tough group alongside: Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, and Iran.

As for the full national team they will first participate in Challenge Cup Qualifying from March 8th-19th, 2011. No team will receive a bye to the finals, if there are more than 16 teams there will be a home and away pre-qualifying round. The 16 teams will be divided into four groups of 4 with the winner and runner-up advancing to the tournament proper to be held from March 3rd-18th, 2012.

Qualifying for Brazil 2014 will kick off with a two-legged play-off on June 29th, 2011 with the return leg on July 3rd, 2011 (the second round will be played later that month July 23rd and 28th). The qualifying format is identical to that of 2010 World Cup Qualifying. No news on the draw yet as the AFC has yet to send out invitations to the FAs to participate. Palestine's ranking could go a long way in deciding what sort of matches they get in the first and second round. Last time around Palestine were ranked 18th continentally and were given one of the hardest opponents in Pot B- Singapore. This time around, barring a massive change in the rankings (13 spots continentally/33 globally) we'll be placed in pot B and will have to hope to avoid the likes of Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Palestine desperately needs a Midfield.

Like many of you I didn't get to see last night's 0-0 draw against Mauritania but I think it is safe to say that much like our game against Sudan we failed to boss the game. A lot of this has to do with the fact that we haven't had a decent pairing in midfield for nearly three years now. The retirement of Pablo Abdala and the continued puzzling shunning of Edgardo Abdala and Roberto Kettlun have hurt our team. With the Chilean connection we could shut down bigger teams in midfield and exert our will against smaller ones. Make no mistake, with the likes of those three in our line-up there is no way we leave Nouakchott with anything less than a win.

Which bring me to my main point, I don't want to argue for the return of players. Mousa Bezaz surely knows about both players and has decided for whatever reason (age for Edgardo since he's 32 and form for Peto who was playing semi-pro football for Teramo and is now without a club) to leave them out of his plans.

What Bezaz and the FA have done and what I applaud is the inclusion of Israeli-Arabs in the squad. This should be part of our selection policy, we have for too long ignored talented players on the other side of the green line. Due to the political climate that has seen Arab MKs lose their immunity status it probably would be too much of a risk for players to switch allegiances if they have already represented Israel. That said, there are many players that play for Premier League clubs in Israel that we could call up. Curiously enough, all the Arab-Israelis we have called up have played in the lower leagues:

Atef Abu Bilal (Bnei Eilat/3rd Tier), Haitham Dheeb (Ex-Hapoel Bnei Tamra/3rd Tier/Currently with Hilal Al-Quds), Mohammed Jamal (Hapoel Umm AlFahm/3rd Tier), Ahmed Harbi (ex-Hapoel Umm AlFahm/Currently with Al-Am'ari), and Hatem Karim (ex Bnei Lod/2nd Tier/Currently with Hilal Al-Quds)

A little research courtesy of Google and Wikipedia came up with these players who are young and mostly midfielders. I'm not saying that each one of them would accept or that it would be easy to get these players to play for us. But it is worth a shot, the fact that many of them play for an Arab club (Bnei Sakhnin) could help facilitate the matter.

Marwan Kabha (AM-19-Peta Tikvah), Hassan Abu Zaid (M-19-Bnei Yehuda), George Imses (M-19-Bnei Yehuda), Alla Abu Saleh (RB-23-Bnei Sakhnin), Mahmud Kannadil (GK-22-Bnei Sakhnin), Mahran Abu Riya (CB-27-Bnei Sakhnin), Khaled Khaliala (RM-27-Bnei Sakhnin), Siraj Nassar (M-20-Hapoel Be'er Sheva), Hisham Kiwan (AM-23-Hapoel Haifa), Ahmad Diab (FW-25-Hapoel Haifa) Amir Abu Nil (FW-21-Hapoel Haifa)

Mauritania 0 : 0 Palestine

The Palestinian National Team drew with its Mauritanian counterpart in a friendly held on Wednesday evening in the Mauritanian capitol of Nouakchott. The match served as preparation for both teams ahead of African Cup Qualifying and the WAFF Championship.

The first half began tentatively with both teams experiencing some fatigue on the first day of Ramadan. The first 15 minutes passed without a real chance on goal for either side. The hosts got the game going with captain Ahmed Teguedi controlling the midfield and stringing passes to forward Asyada. The numerous chances however, failed to be translated into goals as the Palestinian defence sprung into action and impressed in keeping the Mauritanians out. Luck favored Palestine in the first half as well, with the crossbar coming to Abduallah Saidawi's rescue to stop Asyada's clever chip from going in, in the 31st minute.

Palestine's best chance came from a well struck free kick by Majed Abusidu in the 35th minute. His rasping shot was put out by Mauritanian keeper Suleiman for a corner.

The second half was more of the same with both teams playing with a lone striker and content to just string the ball about in midfield. The draw represents a positive result for Mauritania who lost all their World Cup qualifying games and desperately needed something to build on ahead of their African Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso next month. For Palestine, the string of draws stretches to four after draws against the UAE (1-1), Dynamo Moscow (1-1), and Sudan (1-1). The sluggish display was probably to be expected after six players were refused travel by the Israeli Occupying authority and the fact that many players had only one training session with the team after arriving late on Tuesday night. Mousa Bezaz's men will look to build on this performance next month when they face Yemen and Iraq, knowing that 3 points in their first match against the Yemenites will be absolutely crucial in advancing to the semifinals.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Palestine vs Mauritania Preview

Date: Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Nouakchott, Mauritania
Time: 2130 GMT
TV: Palestine TV/Mauritania TV (available on Arabsat)
Internet: (live play-by-play and links to internet streams)

Palestine Squad: Nadim Barghouthi (D, ِAl-Am'ary), Ali Ayesh (F, Shabab Al-Khaleel), Husam Ziyadeh (F, Shabab Al-Khaleel) called up to replace those who could not travel. Ammar Abuseliesel was allowed to travel by the Israeli Occupying Authority.

[UPDATE] In a positive turn around, the Wehdat trio of Bahdari, Keshkesh and Attal has left Tuesday morning to join the squad in Mauritania.

GK: Abdullah Saidawi (Hilal Al-Quds), Fahed Al-Fakhuri (Thaqafi Tulkarem)

D: Ammar Abuseliesel (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Ahmed Harbi (Al-Am'ary), Hatem Dheeb (Hilal Al-Quds), Majed Abusidu (Tadamon, Kuwait), Abdelatif Bahdari (Wehdat, Jordan)

M: Hussam Abu Saleh (Hilal Al-Quds), Khader Yousef (Wadi Al-Nes), Hisham Al-Salahi (Hilal Al-Quds), Atef Abu Bilal (Bnei Eilat, Israel)**

F: Ashraf Nu'man (Wadi Al-Nes), Mohammed Jamal (Hapoel Umm Al-Fahm, Israel), Fahed Attal (Wehdat, Jordan), Ahmed Keshkesh (Wehdat, Jordan)

Expected Line-up: (4-3-3) Saidawi, Abusidu, Abuseliesel, Bahdari, Harbi; Abu Saleh, Khader Yousef, Hisham Al-Salhi; Jamal, Attal, Keshkesh.

What to watch for: This friendly will be an opportunity for the Palestine-based players to stake a claim in the WAFF squad next month. It will also be an opportunity to see how far the WBPL has come with the introduction of a professional setup. Key players for Palestine will be Abdullah Saidawi, the goalkeeper, who will need to don the red cape Ramzi Saleh has donned so many times in securing Palestine results. Defence is traditionally the team's strong point, and it will be again since it comprises the most experienced part of the squad. Majed Abusidu will captain the squad and he will have to provide the spark going forward while also ensuring his centrebacks aren't exposed. In attack, Ashraf Nu'man and Ali Ayesh will need to show that they can score as prolifically internationally as they do domestically.

Danger Men: It's going to be the guys that get the goals. For Palestine that is Mohammed Jamal, who scored on his debut in Sudan. Fahed Attal will look to end his scoreless streak that is as long as Palestine's winless streak (although he did score against Terek Grozny last June). For Mauritania it will be their captain Ahmed Teguedi who notched two goals during World Cup Qualifying.

Prediction: Expect the unexpected. Mauritania hasn't played a FIFA-sanctioned match since November of 2008 and have lost their last six matches (last victory: 13.10.2007, 2-1 over Burundi). Palestine aren't much better managing a string of draws over the past two years against Jordan, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, UAE, and Sudan while losing to Iraq and China (last victory: 03.04.2006, 4-0 vs. Cambodia). Both teams will feel that this is their opportunity to end those miserable streaks so expect a lot of end-to-end, open, albeit sloppy football. Palestine 3 Mauritania 1

** Conflicting reports over whether or not Abu Bilal is part of the squad, he was included in the official list but reports say only 10 players arrived in Nouakchott and his name was not mentioned.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Palestine forced to field a shorthanded squad against Mauritania

Palestine's preparations for the upcoming August 11th friendly against Mauritania have been disrupted. Upon attempting to cross into Jordan, all six players with Gaza identity cards were refused exit visas by the Israeli occupation forces. Upon arriving in Amman, the situation was made worse when Wehdat refused to allow their Palestinian triumvirate of Fahed Attal, Abdelatif Bahdari, and Ahmed Keshkesh to travel with the team. In light of these events, Palestine National Team Manager Mousa Bezaz has called Shabab Al-Khaleel duo Husam Ziyadeh and Ali Ayesh into the squad. Giving them a total of 12 players including one goalkeeper.

The eleven players originally called up that will not feature include: Ismail Al-Amour, Suleiman Abeed, Husam Wadi, Abdullah Saidawi, Khaled Mahdi (due to their Gazan identity cards), Rafit Eyad (injured), Mohammed Shbair, Abdelatif Bahdari, Ahmed Keshkesh, Fahed Attal, Roberto Bishara, Mohammed Shatrit, Imad Zatara, and captain Ramzi Saleh (due to their clubs refusing to release them).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Interview with NT Manager Mousa Bezaz

How is your plan progressing and what does Palestinian Football lack in your opinion?

I am enjoying my time here and I'm happy to be working in Palestine under the command of Chairman Jibril Rajoub. My strategy is to further develop Palestinian Football by improving it at the grassroots, to improve the level of the coaches and managers and to invest in our youth. Our investments at the youth level will lead to us profiting in the future. I'd like to see us create specialized medical centers.

What weaknesses do Palestinian players posses?

The league stops for long periods of time and Palestinian players suffer as a result of not having continual training programs. I think this problem will be solved very soon with the creation of the professional league.

...and their strengths?

The technical level of the players here is very high. In general, Palestinian players are very talented.

Did you watch the Yasser Arafat Cup?

I watched the games of every team competing in the cup, with the exception of Al-Dhahrieh who I will for sure watch once the league starts up for they are a good team with good players. I also watched several youth league matches.

How do you go about selecting a squad?

I have about 70 players in my pool and I watch them and select the best players at every position. There are some difficulties with securing the services of our professional players [players who play outside of Palestine] if the game doesn't fall on an official FIFA match date.

Do you watch our foreign-based players?

Yes, I watch them on television and I remain in constant contact with them.

Are there any plans to include new players in the National Team?

Of course, the door is always open for all the players to wear the shirt of the Palestine. There is someone who points out players for us to watch in foreign based leagues. There is, however, some misconceptions concerning the the ability of some of these players. I have many contacts abroad and I can find out whether or not the player is capable of representing the National Team.

What do you think of the National Team?

I've been in charge of the National Team for three games and they have all ended in 1-1 draws (@ UAE, vs. Dynamo Moscow, @ Sudan). We started with a different lineup in every game due to our inability to secure the services of all our foreign based players. We would pick these players and would be surprised when they told they couldn't join us at the last minute, this was also the case with some of the Gazan players. We would call up four or five players and their inability to join up with the squad would ruin our plans. Ammar Abuseliesel is one player who I have called up multiple times and he was not allowed to travel outside the Gaza Strip. In general, though I would say that we have improved as a national team.

What is the biggest problem you have faced as Manager of the National Team?

We don't meet up for long periods of time and like I said before it is really difficult when our professional players are only able to join up only two days before a match. Our FA has been working really hard to set up more friendlies but it has proven to be difficult to find other FAs willing to play us. I hope we can overcome this problem and organize more friendlies in the future so as to improve the level of our players.

What infuriates you the most about the West Bank Premier League?

Play-acting as a means of wasting time, this is a global phenomenon that I wish would disappear.

What are your thoughts on our National Team players?

We have a real special and unique set of players, we started with baby steps and the team has improved there is a mutual respect between the players and the technical staff. Improving this team is a continuos effort that requires the full participation of everyone involved, organizing more tournaments and friendlies will help in that effort.

When does your contact end?

June 30th, 2011

How is your relationship with Jibril Rajoub?

Very good, I am here because of Jibril Rajoub's strength, he is a person who loves sport. He has a vision for Palestine's footballing future and a large global network, we must work to ensure that his vision becomes reality.

Are you enjoying your stay in Palestine?

The people are great and I am happy to be here.

Any final words?

I hope Palestine wins many matches and climbs up the FIFA rankings and that we can play more friendlies in Palestine and elsewhere. I hope that Palestine can qualify for the Asian Cup and then the FIFA World Cup Finals.

Wadi Al-Nes and Al-Am'ary advance to Final


Wadi Al Nes (TWN) 2
Shabab Al-Khaleel (SAK) 1
Goals: Ashraf Nu'man (1-0), Jihad Saqr (2-0), Hazem Al-Mohtaseb (2-1)

Merkaz Al-Am'ary (MSA) 2
Jabal Al-Mokaber (JAM) 1
Goals: Muayid Saleem (1-0), Ahsan Sadeq (2-0), Ismail Al-Amour (2-1)

HADAF Standings:
Ashraf Nu'man (TWN)6
Ali Ayesh (SAK)5
Shadi Farhan (SAK)4

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yasser Arafat Cup Results: Matchday 5

Group 1
1. Wadi Al-Nes 5 3 1 1 7 10
2. Jabal Al-Mokaber 5 3 1 1 5 10
3. Hilal Al-Quds (Jerusalem) 5 3 1 1 2 10
4. Shabab Balata 5 3 0 2 3 9
5. Asker 5 1 1 3 -6 4
6.Hilal Areeha (Jericho) 5 0 0 0 -11 0

Group 2
1. Merkaz Al-Am'ary 5 5 0 0 9 15
2. Shabab Al-Khaleel (Hebron) 5 3 1 1 5 10
3. Merkaz Tulkarem 5 2 2 1 7 8
4. Al-Dhahrieh 5 1 2 2 -2 5
5. Thaqafi Tulkarem 5 1 0 4 -8 3
6. Al-Bireh 5 0 1 4 -11 1

HADAF Standings:
Ashraf Nu'man (TWN) 5
Ali Ayesh (SAK) 5
Shadi Farhan (SAK) 4


Merkaz Al-Am'ary (MSA) 2
Merkaz Tulkarem (MTK) o
Ahsan Sadeq (1-0), Suleiman Abeed (2-0)

Shabab Al-Khaleel (SAK) 3
Al-Dhahrieh (SAD) 0
Shadi Farhan (1-0), Husam Ziyadeh (2-0), Ali Ayesh (3-0)


Wadi Al-Nes (TWN) 1
Jabal Al-Mokaber (JAM) 1
Ashraf Nu'man (1-0) Ali El-Khatib (1-1)

Hilal Al-Quds (HAQ) 4
Hilal Areeha (HAJ) 2
Said Al-Sobakhi (1-0), Mohammed Dawud (1-1), Moumen Sanduq (1-2), Said Al-Sobakhi (2-2), Said Al-Sobakhi (p.) (3-2), Murad Alyan (4-2)

Thaqafi Tulkarem (TTK) 3
Al-Bireh (MB) 2
Aseel Attal (1-0), Laith Kharoub (2-0), Mohammed Abu Leemon (2-1), Mohammed Nael (3-1), Nabil Tawafsheh (3-2)

Asker (ASK) 3
Shabab Balata (BAL) 5
Ahmed Shubiteh (1-0), Mustafa Kameel (1-1), Adham Abu Ruweis (BAL) RED CARD, Ahmad Huwaiti (1-2), Mohammed Abu Habeeb (1-3), As'ad Halawa (2-3), Hamudeh Fakhri (2-4), Mohammed Abu Habeeb (2-5) Rami Musalmeh (3-5)

PFA announces Mauritania Friendly

As previously reported on our Twitter page Palestine is scheduled to face Mauritania on August 11th in Nouakchott, an official FIFA friendly date (although the game has yet to be posted on FIFA's website). The PFA has also announced Mousa Bezaz's squad on their website (it is strewn with errors, Roberto Bishara is called Abdullah Bishara and Imad Zatara is called Mohammed Zatara). The squad is expected to head to Nouakchott on the 7th of August. The Mauritanian squad will train in Senegal for a week where the will hold two friendlies against club sides. Here is the list of 22 players who have been called up:

GK: Abdullah Saidawi (Hilal Al-Quds), Mohammed Shbair (Shabab Al-Khaleel), Fahed Al-Fakhuri (Thaqafi Tulkarem)

D: Ammar Abuseliesel (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Ahmed Harbi (Al-Am'ary), Abelatif Bahdari (Wehdat, Jordan), Rafit Eyad (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Khaled Mahdi (Al-Am'ary), Hatem Dheeb (Hilal Al-Quds), Samer Helsi (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Majed Abusidu (Tadamon, Kuwait),

M: Suleiman Abeed (Al-Am'ary), Hussam Abu Saleh (Hilal Al-Quds), Khader Abu Hamad (Wadi Al-Nes), Husam Wadi (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Hisham Al-Salahi (Hilal Al-Quds), Atef Abu Bilal (Bnei Eilat, Israel), Ismail Al-Amour (Jabal Al-Mokaber)

F: Ashraf Nu'man (Wadi Al-Nes), Ahmad Keshkesh (Wehdat, Jordan), Fahed Attal (Wehdat, Jordan), Mohammed Jamal (Hapoel Umm Al-Fahm, Israel)

Notable Absences: National Team Captain Ramzi Saleh has declined the invitation saying that he needed time to acclimate in his new surrounding with Al-Merreikh. Hatem Karim (Jabal Al-Mokaber, ex-Hapoel Bnei Lod) who had a fine debut alongside Bahdari in defence against Sudan is out injured Due to the fact that this friendly is being organized days instead of weeks or months in advance Mousa Bezaz has been unable to call on Roberto Bishara (Palestino, Chile), Imad Zatara (Syrianska, Sweden), and Mohammed Shatrit (JA Drancy, France). There is also Mohammed Samara (Arab Contractors, Egypt) who was curiously not even called up along with one-time staples but now rare commodities Roberto Kettlun (recently released from Teramo Calcio) and Edgardo Abdala (Huachipato, Chile).

Sharbini Bros. Update: PFA Official Mohammed Abu Hiltem had this to say "We tried to call them up more than once, but every time they gave excuses for not being able to join up that I view as unacceptable. It is the dream of every player to represent his nation no matter where he plays." There are some things that need to be cleared up with Mr. Abu Hiltem, in order for Ahmad or Anas to play for Palestine the FA would have to petition to get their nationalities changed, as far as we know this has not happened (if it has happened then the brothers are only allowed to played for Palestine). You'd also have to think about what these unacceptable excuses were that the Sharbini Brothers gave if Abu Hiltem is indeed telling the truth (I for one do not think he's telling the truth).

Who are these Mysterious Mauritanians? There isn't a whole lot of information about them, their FA's official website is no longer functioning and they haven't played a match since their 4-1 loss to Morocco in November 2008. They had a terrible 2010 World Cup Qualifying campaign losing all six games against Morocco, Ethiopia, and Rwanda while only scoring three goals and giving up 19 goals. Despite being one of the worst teams in African Qualifying the Mystery Men of Mauritania are ranked seven spots above Palestine.