Wadi Al-Nes is a little village on the outskirts of Bethlehem with a population of 800. It is a one mosque town – literally – whose local side, Taraji, is currently topping the WBPL table halfway through the 2013/14 season, four points ahead of Shabab Al-Khaleel. To put that into perspective, Al-Khaleel (Hebron) has a population of 250,000 and its clubs have the funds to attract the best players in Palestine.
Taraji’s crowning achievement to date is winning the inaugural 2007/08 Palestine Cup which pitted 64 teams in a knockout format to determine placement in the new West Bank Professional League. Since then the club, which draws heavily on the local population, has provided a steady stream of players to Palestine’s national sides: Toufic Ali, Amjad Zidan, holding midfield fixture Khader Yousef, and the deadly Ashraf Nu’man, arguably one of the best players to ever put on a Palestine shirt.
The club does not have the resources retain its top players and its policy has generally been to keep the door open for those who get opportunities abroad (which has its financial benefits for the club) while fully retaining domestic rights over its players.
It finds itself on top of the league mid-way through the season largely thanks to the squad being reinforced by key players returning from abroad in September. Ashraf Nu’man returned after a season with Al-Faisaly FC (Jordan) and Khader Yousef also returned from a 6 month loan to the same club. Nu’man has scored 11 of Taraji’s 22 goals so far in the league.
You would think that Taraji are headstrong on their way to a first WBPL title but theres a twist: both players returned to the club only tentatively in anticipation of offers in the winter transfer window. Surely enough, Nu’man and Yousef have been linked with clubs in Saudi Arabia (Al-Faisaly and Al-Raed respectively). Additionally, GK Toufic Ali is linked with El-Merreikh in Sudan. The club is facing a talent drain that is threatening their title hopes and fans have posted pleas to management to stop the players from leaving so as to secure their place on top of the league.
Things might just go their way, but not because of any intervention on managements part.
Nu’man has returned to the squad after visa issues quashed his Saudi deal and his subsequent negotiations with Jordanian clubs went sour. He put all that behind him and led Taraji to a spectacular 3-2 comeback win over fellow Bethlehemites Shabab Al-Khadr in the cup Round of 16 on Friday.
|Despite links to outside clubs, Ashraf Nu’man (#18), Khader Yousef (#10) and Toufic Ali (#1) participated in the Round of 16 clash with Shabab Al-Khadr. Taraji came back from two goals down to win.|
One thing is for sure: while Nu’man’s bad luck in the transfer market is not the optimal financial scenario for player and club, it may very well make their trophy case a little fuller.
- The clubs name “Taraji” is an homage to the Tunisian club with the same name. The club’s original colours are also red and yellow
- Taraji play their home games in nearby Al-Khadr
- Wadi Al-Nes is a very tightknit community comprising of one or two major families – a look at the roster will show that most players are related
- Ashraf Nu’man and Khader Yousef have over 70 caps between them