Palestine’s Olympic Team now know their route to a potential second U23 AFC Championship Finals. Al-Fida’i reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 edition powered by a generation headed by Oday Dabbagh but also included the likes of current national teamers Mohammed Rashid, Musa Farawi, Mohamed Darwish, Mahmoud Abu Warda, and several others that have gone on to make their first team debuts (Michel Termanini, Saado Abdel Salam, and Shehab Qombor).
Many of those players were back two years later in an attempt to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics but failed to qualify in spite of a 9-0 thumping of Sri Lanka and a professional 1-0 dispatching of Bangladesh. As the team finished in second place, they were at the mercy of results elsewhere and did not finish amongst the top four in the runner-up table.
Palestine will look to avoid that fate and have been handed a somewhat favorable draw alongside neighbors Jordan and Turkmenistan. The three team groups means none of Palestine’s results will be stricken from the record. The games, which are due to be played between October 27-31 2021, are also scheduled to the detriment of the lowest ranked team in the group (Turkmenistan).
Palestine will have a bye on Match Day 1 and then face Turkmenistan on October 29th before rounding off group play on October 31st.
Jordan have never suffered defeat at the hands of Palestine at senior level but it has been a completely different story at U23 level. Palestine defeated the Jordanians in 2018 AFC U23 qualification (3-2), 2015 U23 WAFF Championship (1-0), and twice at the 2014 Palestine Championship (1-0, 1-0).
That said, Jordan will be a formidable opponent having qualified for all four editions of the AFC U23 Championship. Palestine’s saving grace though might be that a draw would almost certainly see both teams through should they both beat Turkmenistan before their encounter.
Senior Team Players
Players born after January 1st, 1999 will be eligible to participate in this tournament. Jordan will be able to return 15 players that participated at the 2020 Finals tournament. Four players who were called up to the last senior national team squad are eligible to play for Al-Nashama: Goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Fakhouri (Wehdat) along with a triumverate of forwards Ibrahim Sadeh, Ali Olwan (both Al-Jazeera), and Yazan Al-Naimat (Shabab Al-Ordon).
For Turkmenistan, they too will be able to call on four current senior team players: Forward Rahman Myratberdiyew (Altyn Aysr), Goalkeeper Rasul Caryyew (Ahal) and Midfielders Begencmyrat Myradow and Welmyrat Ballakow (Altyn Asyr).
Palestine’s most recent squad included two players eligible to play for the Olympic Team Forward Badr Moussa (Ghazal Al-Mahala/Egypt) and Ameed Sawafta (Tubas) as well as Mohammed Deriyeh (Shabab Al-Khaleel) who was part of the squad that faced Saudi Arabia in March.
The team will also draw on large swathes of players in the diaspora including Jamal Hamed Mayor (UD Leoia/Spain), Dawoud Iraqi (AK Berliner/Germany), Ali Abou Alfa (Hertha Berlin/Germany), and Malek Abu Dieh (Canada). There is also a pretty solid core of locally based players that could find themselves as part of the final squad that turned several heads in AFC U19 Championship qualification: Anas Baniowda (Tubas), Reebal Dahamshe (Hilal Al-Quds), and current Gaza League top scorer Khaled Nabris (Ittihad Khan Younes).
The team camped in Egypt last month and contested four friendlies against local club sides- emerging victorious against La Viena FC (2-1) and Misr Lel Mekasa (1-0) drawing against Ismaily (0-0) and losing to Zamalek (4-1).
Olympic Team Manager Ehab Abu Jazar is expected to finalize his side in the coming weeks based largely on the players who were present in camp.