It does not appear that this latest squad released by Makram Dabboub will put a stop to the practice of ignoring Palestine’s best players for no reason. Below is a rating of his choices by position:
If Rami Hamadi is not in goal for all of June’s game this grade should be reduced to an F. There is only one player capable of challenging Hamadi’s incumbency and that is Landskronna’s Amr Kaddoura. The Sweden born shot stopper bowed out of the last national team squad as he was going to miss two games for his club team whilst in quarantine. He might have made the trip if he knew he was going to play.
Kaddoura deserves to play for Palestine and he deserves a run of games. Right now the best thing is perhaps to let him continue his fine form for his club.
The extenuating circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic do not excuse the presence of Toufic Ali in the squad. The Al-Am’ary goalkeeper will be 32 later this year and he is simply not reliable and his form shows that he is more likely to allow a glut of goals than keep a clean sheet. He was atrocious against Saudi Arabia and that was not the first time we’ve seen this from him. Toufic Ali failed to make a save against Syria in a 4-3 win in the WAFF Championships in 2019. He was poor in friendlies against Qatar and Kyrgyzstan in 2018. There is no evidence that his spot would not be better occupied by a young goalkeeper like 22 year old Omar Nahfawi of Akhaa Nazareth who proved himself during Olympic Qualifying in March 2019.
As for the inclusion of Ghanem Mahajneh, the 30 year old was the third choice goalkeeper in 2014 and by the time he earned his first and only cap for the national team in 2018 he had unseated Toufic Ali as the number two. He’s currently plying his trade in the Israeli third tier with Hapoel Bueine as is the fourth goalkeeper invited to camp- Khaled Azzam- who was eventually cut from the squad.
The Good: Perhaps the only thing Dabboub got right was to select Musab Al-Battat and Musa Farawi. These two are obviously Palestine’s two best right backs at the moment.
The Bad: It is a little strange that Mohammed Abu Mayala was hung out to dry and dropped from the squad following the 5-0 loss to Saudi Arabia but his club teammate Mohammed Sammar- who has never played a game for the national team- retains his place in the squad. Mohammed Saleh and Yaser Hamed Mayor are the only tested options in the heart of defence in addition to Abdelatif Bahdari who has been forced out of retirement for a second time in as many years.
The Ugly: There continues to be no place for Saado Abdelsalam despite 14 appearances in the Cypriot top division. His former Olympic teammate Michel Termanini has also been overlooked despite anchoring one of Oman’s best defences. In their place are the absolutely woeful Mohamed Khalil, whose latest contribution at the national team level featured a slew of unpunished errors in a 1-0 win over Kuwait. Also in the side is Ahmed Qatamish who was part of a Balata team that was routed 5-0 by Al-Salt in the AFC Cup.
The deplorable: There are now left backs in the squad which beggars belief given that Palestine had called up Abdallah Jaber for every squad between May 2014 and November 2019 and is one of the best left backs in Asia. Qatamish and Khalil have been deployed at left back but neither of them is one. It might have made more sense to call up anybody else in the country that has played that position- Fadi Salbees, Yousef Al-Ashhab, heck even a repurposed Jaka Ihbeisheh would have been better than these two!
One big problem in the middle of the pitch. Nazmi Albadawi is out of action for another 5-6 weeks and thus misses out. Dabboub could have done the sensible thing and called up Ahmed Awad who continues to be criminally ignored despite the fact that he has consistently produced goals and assists in Sweden’s top three divisions. A goal and an assist in two Allsvenskan appearances off the bench is nothing to scoff at and is surely the type of pedigree that merits consideration for selection. Instead, an unknown 20 year old- Ameed Sawafta is in the squad.
The grade for this group of players should be dropped to a D if Makram Dabboub decides to play Mus’ab Al-Battat in midfield.
As for the rest of the players. The four best midfielders in Palestitne in no particular order are Mohammed Darweesh, Mohammed Rashid, Moody Yameen, and Odai Kharobu. Sameh Maraaba only deserves to be in the squad due to the injury suffered by Albadawi.
Palestine’s attack should be led by Saleh Chihadeh. The striker whose last games with FC Thun were on May 27th and May 30th requested to be rested for the game against Singapore four days later. A reasonable request and with two matches later in the month one that could have been accommodated. Instead he is left off the squad entirely.
There is also no place for Yashir Islame whose consistent goal every other game scoring ratio has been overlooked once again. When Islame was included in the squad he was deployed in positions that did not suit his strength at all.
There are many #9s who should be picked before Khaled Salem is even considered. WBPL top scorer Shehab Qombor, Georgia-based Fady Zidan, Hilal Al-Quds’s 18 year old phenom Reebal Dahamsheh, the top scorer of the Gazan League Khaled Nabris, Shabab Al-Dhahrieh’s Mohammed Fode, but because Khaled Saem scored a hat trick in the AFC it seems his inefficacy and inability to show up in big games has been relegated to history.
Khaled Salem will be 32 years old this year he spent the past league season playing in the West Bank’s second tier. He wasn’t even the top scorer of that division. That hat trick against Al-Hidd- the first goal was a flukey grass cutter that he scored after taking a horrible first touch. The last was a tap in. The second was a fine goal but it beggars belief that Salem has to do so little to get into the squad while Palestinian playing abroad have to move mountains to get into the squad.
In the wide positions, Mahmoud Eid who had an excellent season in Qatar with Al-Mesaimeer continues to be excluded. A return of five goals and three assists in 11 games in Qatar would probably be enough to get into most squads in West Asia but somehow it’s been deemed insufficient for a Palestine squad that has struggled in attack.
Layth Kharoub, who will be 30 next month, has been called in ahead of younger options such as Yousef Emghames (HSC Hannover) and Mohammed Darwish (KF Trepca). Kharoub score a meager two goals for Balata this season and while he did play well in his four appearances with the national team, scoring three goals (all at the 2020 Bangabadhu Gold Cup) this isn’t the type of player Palestine should be building around. If we want to take a player of this type of profile Ahmed Maher Wridat is the same age, has had a great WBPL season, and has quite literally- four times the international pedigree (8 goals and one assist in 27 caps).
The only saving grace to this group of players is that there is experience and expertise in the shape of Oday Dabbagh, Tamer Seyam, Islam Batran, and Mahmoud Abu Warda. Egypt based Badr Moussa getting a call up is long overdue.
This is a squad that lacks depth in key areas. A suspension or injury to one of the centre backs would prove that. Looking over the list of names there are far too many that make you think “Dear God, I hope he doesn’t see the pitch” and that isn’t a recipe for success.
Furthermore, football in the COVID era allows for five substitutes and expanded squads. Why has Dabboub opted for only 23 players? This seems to another act of self sabotage and it seems strange that an interim coach would stop himself from calling the full cavalry with his reputation at stake.