|Dura International Stadium
FIFA has confirmed, vis-a-vis information on its website, that Palestine’s next qualifier will not be hosted at the Faisal Al-Husseini stadium. The state of the pitch failed to meet international standards in July during Palestine’s hosting of its AFC U22 Championship qualification group.
New artificial turf remains rolled up at the grounds of the Majed Al-Asaad stadium in Al-Bireh, roughly 10 km away, and it remains to be seen when the PFA install it at multiple grounds that desperately need it.
In light of this development, the PFA has elected to move the match to Dura. Dura International Stadium can hold more spectators (20,000 as opposed to 15,000 at the Faisal) but there are serious tradeoffs. First, ambience in the stadium leaves a lot to be desired with stands only located behind one of the goal and on one side of the stadium.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, are serious concerns about fan attendance as well. Dura’s total population is listed at just over 28,000 residents and recent games played there have been far from sell outs. Hebron is the closest population center to the town but transportation links are lacking to the say the least.
There are justified concerns that Palestine will play in front of a sparse crowd in a game that could mark its qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
The PFA has once again done precious little to communicate the importance of this event to the general public- depending instead on commercial sponsors and fan pages on Facebook to pick up the slack.
Palestine will take on Bhutan on October 10th at 5 PM local time knowing that a win would seal qualification to the finals in 2019. Palestine could also qualify with a draw should Oman beat Maldives in Male later in the day.
At a Glance: Attendance in Dura
U23 vs. Bangladesh: 500
U23 vs. Jordan: 700
U23 vs. Tajikistan: 700
vs. Tajikistan: ~100
vs. Timor Leste: 6,000