Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: A Review (Palestinians Abroad)

Chile: Roberto Bishara and his Palestino side had a rough start to the season that saw yet another coaching change. New manager Gustavo Benitez steadied the ship and allowed Tito to play his way back into the squad after a long spell out with injury. Palestino finished a respectable 11th on 42 points, Bishara made 20 appearances scoring 1 goal.

Edgardo Abdala had an inconsistent season but still managed 24 appearances and a goal for Huachipato. The Steelers suffered from consistency for much of the season but managed to sneak in to the Copa Libertadores playoff on 48 points. They faced Audax Italiano in the first round, despite a 2-1 victory in the home leg, Huachipato fell 2-1 away and crashed out of the tournament. Edgardo Abdala recently announced the mutual termination of his contract, he will be on the lookout for a new club next season.

Sweden: Imad Zatara did not display his best football, spending much of the season on the trainer's table. For the beginning of the season he was on loan at Ligue 2's Olympique Nîmes where he made 6 appearances and scored 1 goal. He made 7 appearances for Syrianska this season (a far cry from the 28 starts, 4 goal, 7 assist season he had last year). The good news is that Syrianska won the Superettan this year and earned automatic promotion to the Allsvenskan, the top tier of Swedish football.

Poland: The biggest news this year was how Omar Jarun was going to explore the possibility of playing for Jordan, despite the fact that he played a World Cup qualifier for Palestine. His move to Pogon Szczecin in February saw him become an instant hit. He helped Pogon reach the Polish Cup final were they narrowly lost to Jagiellonia Bialystok. After finishing in the top five of the Polish first league last season, Pogon were seen as favorites for promotion this season. So far, things haven't gone to plan. The tail end of the 2009/10 season saw Jarun make 12 league appearances with 4 cup appearances. This season, Jarun has made 11 appearances in Pogon's 17 games. Polish football is now on break and will return in March. Pogon is currently in 13th place on 17 points, a whopping 22 points back of the final promotion place.

France: We don't have a lot to report. There were rumors that Mohammed-ali Shatrit was going to move to the WBPL in the winter transfer window. JA Drancy, Shatrit's team, are in 13th place in their group on 24 points. They are 15 points back of first place CA Bastia for promotion to the Championnat National.

Egypt/Sudan: Mohammed Samara's Arab Contractors are currently fighting off relegation with a measly 11 points from 14 games. Samara has had two goals in 12 appearances, his goals helped Arab Contractors secure four of their 11 points. Ramzi Saleh had an up and down couple of months with Al-Merreikh, with an injury keeping him out for three weeks towards the end of the Sudanese league season. His first game back was against archrivals Al-Hilal the team lost 3-1, with Ramzi Saleh being unfairly booed and ostracized by his own fans. Ramzi has since left Al-Merreikh and nearly signed with Egyptian league leaders Zamalek. His contract demands caused Zamalek to pull out of the deal. He is currently being linked with a host of Egyptian sides including: Harras Al-Hodoud, Al-Masry, and Arab Contractors.

Kuwait: Majed Abusidu has helped guide Tadamon to the semifinals of the Kuwaiti FA Cup. They will face giants Qadsia in the first week of January with a spot in the finals on the line. Through six weeks of play, Tadamon seem to be on track for promotion back to the Premier Division. They are in second place behind Fahaheel on 13 points, Abusidu has scored one league goal this season.

Jordan: Everything was fine and dandy with Wehdat and their Palestinian trio until the riot after the Amman Derby resulted in 250 fans being injured. The fallout from those events saw team president threaten to withdraw his side from all competitions unless justice was served. In response, the Jordanian government put him on trial for threats against the Gendarmerie. Tariq Khoury was sentenced to two years in prison but has yet to be detained.

As far as football goes, Wehdat are running away with everything this season. They leade the league on 31 points from a possible 33, 8 points ahead of Faisaly. They won the Jordanian Shield with Ahmed Keshkesh scoring twice and Fahed Attal opening his account after moving from Al-Jazira. They also are hot favorites for the Jordanian FA Cup, with a semifinal against Kafrsoum awaiting them in the second half of the season and a relatively easy side (Manshieh or Al-Arabi) awaiting them in the final should they go through. Keshkesh and Attal have scored one goal each so far in the cup.

Abdelatif Bahdari remains a stalwart at the back for Wehdat. He started every single game for them this season and has scored twice, against Al-Ramtha and Yarmouk. Fahed Attal has four league goals this season (for a total of six on the season), and Ahmed Keshkesh has two (for a total of five in all competitions). Wehdat tend to rotate their forwards which is why the numbers appear a little deflated.

Got any other news for us? Let us know with a comment...

2010: A Review (WBPL)

West Bank Premier League

A quick look at the standings shows some surprises. Although it should not surprise anyone that Hilal Al-Quds are top of the table on 28 points from 11 games trailed by Al-Am'ary on 25 points. The surprise so far has been the form of Balata who find themselves tied for third place on 20 points. The newly promoted Nablus club has leaned on the performances of its young starlets- Abu Habeeb and Mohammed Nael.

Let's not forget the other competitions going on in the West Bank. Wadi Al-Nes looked unstoppable in August romping to a cup double winning the Palestinian Supercup on penalties over defending WBPL champions Jabal Al-Mokaber and beating Al-Am'ary in the inaugural Yasser Arafat Cup 1-0. Their league campaign, however, has been mired by an inability to score goals. Wadi Al-Nes lost two out of its first three games, and despite having the second best defence in the league (8 goals allowed) they have scored a paltry 11 goals. The team is currently midtable on 17 points.

The revelation so far this season has been Murad Alyan, the 35 year old veteran has experience playing in the lower levels of the Israeli league. He has been so deadly in front of goal, he leads the league with 12 goals, that he forced Mousa Bezaz to go back on his promise not to call him up due to his age.

A poll of the 13 WBPL managers has revealed the best eleven players of the season thus far:

GK: Abdullah Saidawi (Hilal Al-Quds) 7 votes
CB: Mohammed Al-Masri (Al-Dhahrieh) 7 votes
CB: Ra'fit Eyad (Jabal Al-Mokaber) 6 votes.
RB: Raed Fares (Shabab Al-Khaleel) 12 votes
LB: Ahmed Harbi (Al-Am'ary) 10 votes
CM: Murad Ismail (Hilal Al-Quds) 11 votes
CM: Ma'ly Kaware (Al-Am'ary) 5 votes
LM: Shadi Ferhan (Shabab Al-Khaleel) 5 votes
RM: Suleiman Obied (Al-Am'ary) 7 votes
FW: Murad Alyan (Hilal Al-Quds) 13 votes
FW: Eyad Abugharqud (Al-Am'ary) 9 votes

Also receiving votes: Mohammed Shbair (GK/Al-Khaleel) 6 votes, Mohammed Abdel-Jawad (CB/Hilal Al-Quds) 5 votes, Ismail Al-Amour (RM/Jabal Al-Mokaber) 5 votes, Ali Al-Khatib (LM/Jabal Al-Mokaber) 4 votes.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: A Review (National Team)

For those who haven't been paying attention let's recap all that has gone on with the national team, WBPL, and Palestinians Abroad.

National Team

Palestine 1 : 1 Dynamo Moscow
Sudan 1 : 1 Palestine
Mauritania 0 : 0 Palestine
Palestine 1 : 3 Yemen*
Palestine 0: 3 Iraq*
Dynamo Moscow 1 : 1 Palestine
Palestine 9 : 1 Vatican Priests
Palestine 6 : 0 Golan Heights

A bit of a mixed bag in Mousa Bezaz's first full year in charge. Aside from the thumpings of amateur, non-FIFA sides the team continued the streak of draws in friendlies. The WAFF tournament started off promisingly enough, with the team dominating Yemen in the first half but failing to score a goal. A phantom penalty, and the unjust ejection of Abdelatif Bahdari saw the team fall to two defeats in the group stage.

What we learned: The team lacks depth, especially when many of the team's foreign based players are continuously ignored [the most notable absences this year have been Edgardo Abdala (not called up since '07), Roberto Bishara, Omar Jarun ('07), Roberto Kettlun ('06), Shareef Adnan ('09)]. 2010 did see the return of Mohammed-ali Shatrit, Mohammed Samara, and Imad Zatara albeit in unofficial friendlies against Dynamo Moscow.

The one revelation in the national team this year has been Suleiman Obeid. A late bloomer at 29 years of age, he put in an imperious performance against Yemen, scoring the team's only goal. He was also very impressive in the second game against Dynamo Moscow despite the fact that he was playing less than 72 hours after the death of his mother.

What's Next?
Friendly vs. Kuwait March 2011

AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers March 20-31
Group A: Myanmar, Bangledesh, Afghanistan/Philippines
Olympic Team

The Olympic team continued its maturation under the command of The Dinosaur. They beat Jordan 2-0 in a friendly played in Al-Ram. Drawn in a tough group for the Asian Games that featured the two Koreas and Jordan the team once again failed to progress from the group stage after two 3-0 losses to the Koreas. The team deserved to beat Jordan after a complete domination of the proceedings but were unable to do so after a missed Ali El-Khatib penalty.

What's Next? 2012 Olympic Team Qualifiers.
vs. Thailand 23/2/2011*
@ Thailand 9/3/2011

*It remains to be seen whether or not Palestine will be able to host a game.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Atlas Sport: Kuwait to host two Palestine friendlies

According to Atlas Sport, Kuwait will be a stop in our preparations for March Challenge Cup qualifiers as two friendly matches have been agreed to.
It should be a formidable test, Kuwait just recently won the Gulf Cup, albeit the final was against a Saudi national team made up mostly of upstarts. Recall that we are grouped with Bangladesh, Myanmar and the winner in the playoff between the Phillipines and Mongolia.

On a side note, notice how in every such article, they have to mention that the friendlies are a result of agreements between Jibril Rajoub and his counterpart. Is that necessary? Rajoub represents the FA, and the FA technically is the negotiating party. Or maybe Rajoub should get all the credit...would any President with less political clout have achieved similar 'results'?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ِAnother twist in the Ramzi Saleh transfer saga

If you were following our twitter feed yesterday you were among the first to learn of Ramzi Saleh signing a 30 month deal with Zamalek, the current Egyptian league leaders. Well, less than 24 hours later that deal has been cancelled. Zamalek's front office had anticipated being able to hammer out the details of the contract whilst waiting for the goalkeeper's registration papers. For whatever reason, that didn't work out and Ramzi Saleh is once again a free agent with the ability to field offers from any club in the world.

Media speculation cites Ramzi Saleh's wage demands as the reason the deal fell through. It is important to note that wages in this part of the world usually dictate your place on the depth chart. If Ramzi was expected to compete with current #1 Abdelwahed Al-Sayed he would have been offered a compensation package that reflected that. It is likely Zamalek's league leading form meant the club wasn't interested in allowing Ramzi Saleh to challenge for a starting spot.

In another twist to this story, Al-Quds is reporting that Zamalek are interested in taking Hilal Al-Quds goalkeeper Abduallah Al-Saidawi on trial with a view to signing him permanently if he impresses.

As for Ramzi Saleh, he will have plenty of Egyptian suitors, teams that have expressed in interest in him before include: Ittihad Alexandria, Arab Contractors, and Harras Al-Hodoud. Ramzi previously stated a desire to move back to Cairo but that would be contingent on relegation battling Arab Contractors offering him a lucrative contract with a release clause if the club do go down. Another option would be to try and court interest from a European clubs with the aim of securing a series of trials.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bezaz under pressure to call up Lebanon and Syria based players


So far, Bezaz's reign has been marked by a slew of draws and under strength squads. Notable absences during his 18 month reign have included:
Omar Jarun (Pogon Szczecin, Poland)
Edgardo Abdala (Huachipato, Chile)
Shareef Adnan (Faisaly, Jordan)
Roberto Kettlun (Olympia Agnonese, Italy)
Fadi Salím (Merkaz Tulkarem, Palestine).

There have been other players who haven't appeared in official friendlies these include:
Imad Zatara (Syrianska, Sweden)
Mohammed Shatrit (JA Drancy, France)
Roberto Bishara (Palestino, Chile)

There was a time when Palestine would look far and wide for the best players, there was always a domestic contingent of players like Ramzi Saleh, Ziyad Al-Kord, and captain Saeb Jendeya but there were guys who played professionally in the Arab World and beyond that helped make Palestine a side to be reckoned with. During this era, the side achieved some notable scalps including: a 2-0 win over Bahrain in Manama, a 2-0 win over Qatar, a 3-3 draw against Kuwait in Kuwait City to knock them out of the Arab Cup and a 2-2 draw with Iran.

The squad's main problem today is a lack of depth, it is painfully obvious that some of the WBPL players just cannot cut it at this level. There are some notable exceptions, but playing Ahmed Harbi and Samer Hijazi over Shareef Adnan? That is just ridiculous... so ridiculous that Shareef Adnan is seeking to switch allegiances and play for Jordan.

Logistically, it might be tough for the team to bring in players from Europe and South America due to club commitments. There is also a concern with how players who don't speak the language would mesh with the rest of the team, although that has never been an issue for guys like Kettlun, Bishara, Edgardo Abdala, and Pablo Abdala. But it is a mystery as to why players who ply their trade in Lebanon and Syria have been overlooked.

Olympic Team coach Mokhtar "The Dinosaur" Al-Talili has requested that he be allowed to travel to Lebanon and Syria to look at players. Mousa Bezaz has also stated that he would travel to Lebanon and Syria "at the closest possible time". He went on to say that he couldn't assess their talents before because Lebanese and Syrian League matches weren't shown on television. Here is a look at some of the players that might get called up in the futuer.

Mustafa Hallaq plays for Al-Ahed who won the Lebanese title last year and are on course for a repeat this year. Halaq has 7 goals in 10 games this year and what is more impressive is that this is his first year with the team. He is still relatively young at 25 years of age and if called up would provide a different attacking option. Halaq has expressed his desire (and frustration) to play for the national team for over a year now. He's the second leading scorer in Lebanon, behind teammate Hassan Ataq who has 9 goals. There is also Racing Beirut's midfield maestro- Wisam Abdelhadi who has 5 goals in 10 games and has played for Safa, Al-Ansar and Al-Islah. He is 28 years old and plays in midfield. There's also Mohammed Abu Ateeq who played sparingly for Al-Ahed in previous season but has now transfered to newly promoted Salam Sour. He scored his first goal against Akhaa Ahli last week to lift them out of the relegation zone.

As for the Syria-based bunch: There is Amer Al-Abtah, a defender who plays for Al-Shorta. He's 28 years old and just extended his contract for an additional two years. Omar Khalil, a midfielder who featured during our 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, he transfered this past summer from Al-Wahda to Jordanian side Al-Karmal. At 33 though, he'll probably be not be picked by Bezaz.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ramzi Saleh transfer update: Part II

According to Goal.com's Arabic edition, Al-Merreikh have given up trying to accquire Essam Al-Hadary in exchange for Ramzi Saleh and cash. The report claims that Ramzi Saleh will be registered for the upcoming season and he will have to ward off competition from Mohammed Kamal and Yas who was acquired from Hilal Al-Sahel. Al-Merreikh will compete in the African Chmapions League preliminary round on January 28th having finished as runner-ups to Al-Hilal in the league this past season. Al-Merreikh will find out their opponents after the draw is conducted next week (December 20th).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wehdat-Faisaly Fallout

So I was asked to post my thoughts on the police brutality and rioting that took place after Wehdat beat Faisaly to go 8 points clear in the Jordanian Premier League.

Some of you might be wondering why were talking about the Jordanian League and not the Palestinian one. Allow me to explain:

History

Jordan has high a concentration of Palestinian refugees. Many of these refugees hold Jordanian citizenship and played an active role in developing the country after British withdrawal from the region. From 1948 to 1967 the government made an active effort not to differentiate between West Bankers (Palestinians) and East Bankers (Jordanians). A lot of this had to with the fact that King Hussein annexed the West Bank in a very undemocratic and unilateral manner. In order to be seen as the rightful ruler of the land he had to convey that there was no difference between the Bedouin tribes who supported him and kept him in power and the more educated and urban populous he had just inherited.

When Israel annexed the West Bank (Jordan put in a half-hearted effort to defend it) in 1967 there was serious unrest which would be manifested in a civil war known as Black September. Since that moment in time, Palestinians have not been allowed to hold certain positions in the the military and have been at a severe disadvantage when trying to secure government jobs. All this despite the fact that Palestinians make up the majority of the general populous.

Because Jordan is the only country to have granted citizenship rights to Palestinians it is often lauded by organizations such as UNRWA. Unfortunately, there are tensions that are festering beneath an ostensibly calm surface. Many are panicked about a persistent rumor that Israel will expel its entire population to Jordan and allow King Abdullah to annex parts of the West Bank in return. In an effort to quell the rumor, the government stripped 40,000 Palestinians of their National ID cards, effectively turning them into persona non grata within their own country.

On to the football part-

Wehdat is a team based out of the largest refugee camp in Amman and has a large, almost exclusively Palestinian following. Al-Faisaly, is the most successful club in the country and has a large following amongst King Abdullah's power base. As the two most successful clubs in the country there has always been a rivalry between the two sides. For the most part, the rivalry was somewhat healthy. In recent years, however, it has taken a turn for the worse.

Common chants amongst the Faisaly supporters are:

Fadi Lafi, you have no honor! فادي لافي شرف ما في Fadi Lafi Sharaf Ma Fi!
Divorce Her, Divorce Her! طلقها, طلقها Talegha, Talegha!
Dirt, Dirt, Dirt, F@## your mother Palestine طين طين طين ك امك يا فلسطين



The last chant caused a Jordanian Shield match to be cancelled in 2009 after a wave of football related violence. What caused 250 people to be injured this past weekend wasn't racist chanting it was a stampede that occurred after the game was finished. Wehdat had won 1-0 (Abdelatif Bahdari started the entire game for Wehdat as did Shareef Adnan for Faisaly, Fahed Attal got in as a sub in the second half while Ahmed Keshkesh was an unused sub).

As Faisaly supporters left the match they threw stones and taunted Wehdat supporters in the opposing section. Seeking to avoid any problems a proper police force should step in, separate the fans, and arrest the trouble makers. In Jordan, however, the police are Faisaly fans so they took the opportunity to rush into the Wehdat section of the stadium and mercilessly beat anyone they saw wearing green. The fans, seeking to escape, ran towards the pitch causing a stampede and breaking a metal barrier in the process.

The government is promising to investigate but refuses to blame the police for their excess brutality in handling the situation.

You can watch the Al-Jazeera English report on the match here.

Palestine bows out of Asain Beach Games

Palestine looks so much better in green.


Palestine's first foray into beach football garnered them an impressive 7-3 win over Vietnam. Six of the goals scored came from former National Team fullback Hamada Shbair. He's not the only familiar face in the squad, Saeb Jendeya, ex-captain of the national team with over 70 caps is also part of the team.

Palestine did not qualify out of its group after losing narrowly to Bahrain (2:0) and China (5:4) but Shbair's nine goals make him the leading scorer so far. When asked to comment Shbair said:

""I hate defending... I would rather play forward as much as I can. I play in defence for the national team but I would rather score goals."

Brilliant.

Find out more about the Asian Beach Games Here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ramzi Saleh transfer update

A couple of weeks ago we reported on the troubles Ramzi Saleh had been facing with his club Al-Merreikh. It seemed that the talented shot-stopper would be released from his massive contract (2 years/$1 million) and allowed to field offers in the January transfer window.

Well... There's a twist. Al-Merreikh has just signed former Al-Ahly coach Hossam Al-Badri who has brought along Ahmad El-Nagy as a goalkeeper coach. El-Nagy is a big fan of Ramzi's and is part of the reason why Al-Ahly signed him back in 2008. It appeared to outsiders that Saleh's relationship with Al-Badri was frosty after being benched following an injury ridden spell in 2009. Saleh ended his second season with Al-Ahly as a third choice goalkeeper behind winter signing Sharif Ekramy and youth product Ahmed Abdel-Moneam.

Saleh dispelled the rumors in an interview to Modern Koora:

"I'm happy Al-Badri is here, he is a big name coach who was faced with enormous pressure and unfortunate circumstances when he was with Al-Ahly. I think [goalkeeper coach] Ahmad El-Nagy will help raise my level of play.... I'm not worried that he's here at all, the fact that he didn't count on me as a first choice goalkeeper [in Al-Ahly] can be considered a difference of opinion."

The Palestine captain also went on to say that he acted as a middle man between the club and Al-Badri and played an instrumental role in negotiations. There have been rumors, however, that Al-Badri will launch a bid to capture Zamalek goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary. El-Hadry has not played this season due to a ban levied on him after he unilaterally voided his contract to sign for Sion FC of Switzerland. Incidentally, Ramzi Saleh was signed by Al-Ahly to fill the void left by El-Hadry. When asked about the rumors, the three-time African Cup winner denied he has any contact with the Khartoum based club.

As for Ramzi Saleh, it's hard to believe that the fans or the club will accept him as the starter next season. Saleh has had some good performances, but he rushed back to play against Al-Hilal in a match that would decide the winner of the league. His performance was not up to par and the game ended 3-1 to Al-Hilal with Saleh being booed by his own fans. The situation was so bad that Ramzi Saleh was benched in favor of Mohammed Kamal for the Sudan Cup Final. Al-Merreikh were able to beat Al-Hilal 2-0 on that occasion thanks in part to a numerical advantage after one of the Al-Hilal players was sent off.

Before Al-Badri's signing, Goal.com reported that Ramzi Saleh was in the midst of negotiating with Arab Contractors (Mohammed Samara's club). Ramzi is currently demanding 2 million Egyptian pounds per season (around $365,000 USD). Arab Contractors have two goalkeepers on the roster but both of them have contracts expiring at the end of the season.

Ramzi Saleh's future is once again intertwined with El-Hadary's. If El-Hadary does indeed make the move to Al-Merreikh then Ramzi is a goner. No way he agrees to sit on the bench and chances are he won't be asked to given his massive contract. If El-Hadary goes somewhere else then I think Ramzi might choose to stick it out. He loves Ahmed El-Nagy, will play in the African Champions League, and will be able to see out the rest of that $1 million contract.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Congratulations QATAR!



So if you haven't heard.... Qatar has managed to captivate the bigwigs of the FIFA Executive committee with an amazing presentation and has secured the 12 votes needed to bring the World Cup to the Arab World for the first time ever. Everyone here at Football Palestine would like to wish them the best of luck in organizing the tournament and we hope too see you there in the flesh come to 2022!