If you only casually follow our National Team’s news, or have an interest in it that can best be described as remote, this post is for you. I will highlight why you should be very interested in the news that will be coming out of Nepal in the coming weeks, where Palestine will be participating in the AFC Challenge Cup.
I was going to have this section at the end but moved it up because really, its exactly why you should be interested. There is a lot more at stake here than just a trophy, the winner gets automatic qualification to the 2015 Asian Cup, which is set to be held in Australia. I will say it again. ASIAN CUP!
This is Palestine’s best ever chance to qualify for the continental showcase, something we have never been able to do.
The AFC Challenge Cup is a bi-annual tournament that pits the ’emerging’ confederations of the continent against each other. Palestine participated in the inaugural 2006 edition where they crashed to Kyrgyzstan in the knockout stages. After withdrawing in 2008 and failing to qualify in 2010, this marks the first appearance since the goalfest they produced in Bangladesh. The teams have been grouped as follows:
Group A: Nepal, Palestine, Turkmenistan, The Maldives
Group B: North Korea, Tajikistan, The Philippines, India
Al-Fursan arguably avoided the tougher group but have been pitted against the hosts, Nepal, for the opener – in what will surely be a test of mental toughness. The top two teams of each group qualify to the knockout stage out of which two teams will emerge to play for the title. We are heave favorites alongside North Korea and Tajikistan.
Jamal Mahmoud, former manager of champions-elect Hilal Al-Quds, has left his duties at the club to take charge of the national team after the impressive showing at the Pan-Arab Games last December. Under him the team has played a free-flowing attacking game – as opposed to our usual approach of garrisoning our half of the field.
Palestine is currently camping in Dubai where they played two friendlies against the UAE and Azerbaijan, winning the latter 2-0. The bulk of the players called up play in the West Bank Professional League, although there are a few names that play in Egypt and one, Omar Jarun, who plays in Poland. Key players like Imad Zatara (Sanat Naft, Iran) and Abdelatif Bahdari (Hajer, KSA) could not join due to commitments with their clubs and a few injuries make Palestine’s situation a little less than ideal. It will be up to Jamal Mahmoud to make the best of what he has and to adapt from match to match (something he has proven good at).
If it weren’t for our pesky real-life jobs, me and Bassil would have been on the first plane to Kathmandu (ok I dont know about Bassil – but I would!). So instead we’ll give you our best armchair analysis of whats happening in Nepal.
March 8th – Nepal vs. Palestine
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