Monday, February 27, 2012

Visa troubles could shape Challenge Cup squad

One of the distinctive features of Jamal Mahmoud's latest squad was the inclusion of several new players currently plying their trade in the Lebanese Premier League. It was thought that their presence would help provide the team with added depth especially with the absences of Ismail Amour, Murad Alyan, Imad Zatara, Abdelatif Bahdari, Omar Jarun, Roberto Bishara, and Ali El-Khatib.

The UAE's reluctance to issue them entry visas however has scuppered Jamal Mahmoud's plan ahead of next month's Challenge Cup. The diplomatic kerfuffle has already caused the players to miss the first week of camp as well as Friday's friendly against the UAE. It seems highly unlikely that Mahmoud would include any of the players in the final squad without having seen them in action. As a result the final squad almost picks itself- Abdelatif Bahdari whose name is included in the preliminary list of 30 players- is ruled out due to Hajer's refusal to release him. His partner in defence, Omar Jarun, is in camp but his participation is limited to the Azerbaijan friendly on Wednesday.

That leaves Mahmoud with five cuts (possibly six- if Murad Ismail joins up) to make. If none of the Lebanon-based players can gain entry into the UAE then then Palestine will travel to Nepal with the players currently in camp alongside Mohammed Samara, Houssam Wadi, Ramzi Saleh, Haitham Dheeb, Rafit Eyad, and possibly Murad Ismail.