1. Abed Kaebia, Shabab Al-Dhahrieh, FW
Jamal Mahmoud has struggled to find a good out-and-out striker to suit his system. In his 12 months in charge, Mahmoud has tried Murad Alyan, Ahmed Keshkesh, Khaled Salem, Eyad Abugharqud, and Alaa Attieh to varying degrees of success. Going forward (no pun intended), Mahmoud will most likely rely on Ashraf Nu’man and Khaldoun Al-Halman. Fahed Attal’s injury however opens the door for Kaebia, a new addition to the WBPL, with vast experience in the Israeli league. He was a product of the Maccabi Haifa system before leaving to play in the first division for Maccabi Umm El-Fahm. You would be forgiven for thinking he’s been a poacher since birth. His calm finishing and clutch ability mask the fact that he started his career as an attacking fullback before moving the midfield. In the Oryxes’ side he plays as a withdrawn striker which makes his goalscoring even more impressive. He doesn’t just feast on weak teams either, his league-leading five goals have come against five different opponents.
2. Majdi Khalaila, Jabal Al-Mukaber, GK
There isn’t a better goalkeeper in the WBPL and the statistics are a testament to his amazing shot stopping ability. In eight games, Khalaila has kept seven clean sheets (10 in 19 since joining the Mount Scopus side). No opponent has managed to find a way past him, either (Jabal Al-Mukaber’s captain, Rafit Eyad scored an own goal in the club’s lone loss of the season). Mahmoud is interested and had approached him to join the national team in Nepal for the Challenge Cup this past year. Unfortunately, he declined citing work commitments at his ‘real job’. Khalaila is a reflex shot stopper, who commands his box really well, but is often risky/unorthodox/ballsy with his excursions. For those that follow MLS he reminds me of RSL’s Nick Rimando.
3. Wasim Eghbariyeh, Jabal Al-Mukaber, DF
Samir Issa has his side drilled to defend and snuff out attacks. It’s a formula he will ride all season long in the hopes that his stingy side can pip prolific scorers Shabab Al-Khaleel and Shabab Al-Dhahrieh in the title race. Eghbariyeh is leaned on heavily to keep opponents at bay and I would be shocked if neither he, nor teammate Rafit Eyad, get called up.
4. Jehad Rabie, Shabab Al-Khaleel, DF
A solid and steady contributor on an organized team that has been one of the best defensive units over the past two seasons. Fellow Bianconeri defender Nadim Barghouthi gets called up but has proven to be shaky at best. It might be time to give his partner a run instead.
5. Ismail Qasem, Shabab Al-Dhahrieh, MF
This spot could have easily gone to an Oryx of larger repute. Yahya Al-Sobakhi has proven adept at banging in the goals as has his namesake, Said, over at Tarji Wadi Al-Nes but WBPL goalscoring does not necessarily translate into international goalscoring. This is especially true when numbers are inflated by penalties or a 3-goal performance against hapless Hilal Jericho. Moreover, with Ashraf Nu’man banging them in for Al-Faisaly across the border and Khaldoun Al-Halman’s GPG ratio there isn’t a need for more strikers in the squad.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook crucial contributors in the squad when their contributions don’t translate into goals and assists. Qasem is one of those players- he goes about his business quietly, completes a high rate of passes, and helps his back-line by staying positionally sound. He is a key part of a Al-Dhahrieh squad that goes forward with gusto: Amir Abu Arar, Kaebia, Maher, and Al-Sobakhi are often on the pitch at the same time. Qasem’s discipline allows that well-oiled machine to click. Mahmoud called him into camp against the South Africa B-side last year, but he barely got 15 minutes to show what he could do. After the first eight games of the WBPL season, however, he has most certainly earned himself a second chance.