Palestine fell 4-3 in a friendly against FC Brussels held in commemoration of UNRWA’s 60th anniversary. All of Palestine’s goals came in the second half after the first half ended 1-0 in favor of the side of Molenbeek. Majed Abu Sidu equalized on a free kick shortly after the break, Ahmed Keshkesh made it 3-2 in the 66th after Brussels pulled ahead with second and third goals. Brussels would score again but the Pichichi of the West Bank Premier League Ahmad Alan brought Palestine within a goal with a thunderous strike in the 87th minute.
Overall, I think this match was a success even though Palestine could not pull a win. Winning this match was not important, if we had won the match 1-0 by parking the bus then it would have been an empty win. The fact that we went out and played and scored a bunch of goals speaks volumes about our quality. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, we aren’t world beaters and I can understand the sentiment that a national team should not lose to a team from the second division of the Belgian League. But, we must all understand where Palestine is at the moment and what they are building for. Palestine is ranked 171 in the world, meaning that we are not as good a side as we were at this point three years ago when we were ranked at 115. Moreover, we are building for the long-term. We are not going to be playing in the World Cup or the Asian Cup in 2010 and 2011 and probably will not play qualifiers for the 2014 and 2015 editions until 2011. When I was asked to handicap this match by a friend, I told him that I honestly had no idea how this would turn out. We fielded a squad with a lot of fresh faces that I have not seen play against top competition other than Abusidu (12), Al-Amour (17), Keshkesh (25), Attal (22), and Lafi (33) there is not a single member of this team with more than 10 caps (Abdelatif Bahdari with 7 is the next most experienced member of the squad and his first cap came in 2007). Games like these and our failed attempt to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup vis-a-vis the Challenge Cup will help build a large domestic player pool. If the West Bank Premier League continues uninterrupted then you would have to say that Palestinian football at the grassroots would be exponentially better than it was five years ago. Another positive about this game is that it gives out players a chance to showcase their skills on the European continent in front of scouts. We put three goals past FC Brussels, you would have to think management would be willing to give a trial or take a chance on a guy like Majed Abusidu or Fadi Lafi or maybe even one of the less experienced players. We shall see what happens from this point on, but there are signs of an improvement. We will need a manager and we will have to reach out to our European and South American based players this summer and see what they can do when combined with the present squad. It is exciting times ahead, and a training camp in Turkey awaits.