So as many of you know, Palestine failed in its attempt to qualify for the Asian Games knockout stage. Many of our readers have expressed disappointment in the performances against the two Koreas, but in all reality our hopes were dashed when Ali El-Khatib missed his penalty against Jordan. Palestine dominated their first match, outclassing a better funded rival in every aspect, and managing to beat them out for third place (by virtue of goal differential) in the group.
It is important to put results in perspective, fans seem not to recall Palestine’s 2006 Asian Games performance. Allow me to refresh our collective memories, three games, three losses against far weaker opposition: 1-0, 2-0, & 3-0 respectively against Thailand, Kuwait, and Kyrgyzstan, respectively. That team had the likes of Fahed Attal, Ahmed Keshkesh and Abdelatif Bahdari but those players only grew into the players they are today after the experience. Attal was on the radar of a lot of clubs thanks to his Challenge Cup Golden Boot, but Bahdari and Keshkesh would have never become stars in Jordan with Wehdat if it wasn’t for the West Bank Premier League. That is what separates this generation of players from the previous one, they have more resources and an actual league to play in.
The future is brighter in terms of youth development. Although we have nostalgia for the days of Azmi Nassar, Alfred Riedl, and our South American contingent it is important to realize that we didn’t have a particularly deep pool of players. I think that is beginning to change and there are a couple of players in this Olympic side that are ready to make the step to the senior team (The Dinosaur said that half his squad deserved to be in the national team).
At the same time we must also remind ourselves that our two losses came at the hands of two teams that are just further along than us development wise. South Korea is without a doubt the best team in Asia and their Northern counterparts fielded a squad with 9 World Cup participants. A result against either side would have been a massive upset but it just was never going to happen. I’ll gladly take our third place finish if it means our senior team gets five or six new players. I’m also happy to take our experience at the Asiad and use it to prepare for the Olympic Qualifiers against Thailand* next year.
*Thailand finished second in its group beating Pakistan 6-0 and drawing 1-1 and 0-0 against Oman and Maldives respectively.