Southeast Asia becoming a destination for Palestinian talent with Islame, Rashid penning new deals

A trend that started years earlier is showing no signs of abating. Southeast Asian clubs have taken a keen interest in Palestine’s national teams since 2016 in the aftermath of Al-Fida’i’s 6-0 demolition of Malaysia in 2018 World Cup qualification.

Matías Jadue, Yashir Islame, and Jonathan Cantillana led the way back then- signing with Selangor, Melaka United, and Kuala Lumpur FA respectively.

Those three would go on to star for several sides in the ASEAN region. In fact, before the COVID-19 outbreak Jadue was playing in Vietnam with Ho Chi Minh City and a triumvirate of Palestinians were starring in Indonesia’s top tier- the aforementioned Jonathan (PSIS) and Islame (Barito Putera) alongside Mahmoud Eid (Persebaya).

The worsening situation with the pandemic caused leagues to suspend play and all of a sudden, almost overnight, there were no Palestinians playing the region.

Mohammed Rashid joins Persib

That changed last month when Mohammed Rashid signed with Persib in Indonesia after spending his first season abroad in Saudi Arabia’s second tier.

Rashid mad his ambitions with the club clear at his unveiling: “”My hope is to help my team win every game we play and hopefully be the top team at the end of the season.”

The 26 year old midfielder also cited Michael Essein, who played for the club in the twilight of his career, as one of the reasons he signed for the club. As one of the oldest clubs in Asia (Founded in 1933) there is no shortage of ambition in Bandung and Rashid coupled the other foreign signings could power them to their first league title since 2014.

Rashid will be joined by former Netherlands U19 international Geoffery Castillion, Eredivisie veteran defender Nick Kuipers, and Brazilian Wander Luiz who had scored four goals in three games for the club before league play was suspended.

The Former Al-Bireh midfielder has a deal that runs for one year and he will occupy Persib’s Asian player slot. This marks the first time in Rashid’s career that he will be coached by a European manager. Ronald Alberts who has won league titles in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia will be his new boss.

Yashir Islame unveiled at Khon Kaen United

The press had known of Islame’s intent to leave Ragers de Talca of the Chilean second tier for more than a month before this move was actually announced. It was a transfer that played out in slow motion on social media. We saw Islame board a plane to Thailand, enter a 14 day quarantine, exit quarantine, and then finally end all speculation by joining newly promoted Khon Kaen United.

As mentioned earlier, this is not Islame’s first stint in Southeast Asia, Yashir Islame who was Palestine’s most consistent goalscorer in 2016 and 2017 will now join his 14th different club in 14 seasons as a professional having played in the country of his birth, Chile in addition to Canada, Hungary, Germany, Malaysia, Indonesia, and now Thailand.

The 30 year old joins a team whose meteoric rise has been underpinned by the relentless ambition of its founder.

Khon Kaen started operations less than seven years ago in the old Thai third tier and won promotion to tier two by winning the league title. The King Cobras were suspended in 2016 as a result of a physical assault against a referee and relegated to the fourth tier but have earned back-to-back-to-back promotions and now find themselves in the top tier of Thai Football.

The club has flown through managers (9) and foreign players (Only captain Douglas Cobo remains) just as quickly as their rise from Thailand’s lowest divisions. The side will be managed by Brazilian Carlos Eduardo Pareira and the foreign player contingent joining Islame and the aforementioned Cobo will be fellow Brazilian defender Alef and Brazillian winger Ibson Melo.

Former Philippines U23 international Joshua Grommen will take up an ASEAN player slot.

The deal is expected to run for one year. Khon Kaen released a brief interview with Yashir Islame on its official Facebook to announce the capture of the Palestinian forward.