Squad selections are always a source of discourse, debate, and even bitter rancour- not just for fans of Palestine but for fans of every national team in the world.
Abdallah Jaber played nearly every meaningful game for Palestine between May 2014 and his last cap vs Uzbekistan on November 19th 2019.
It was an incredible run of consistency, in a five and a half year period spanning 64 official encounters. Abdallah Jaber started 56 of them.
Abdallah Jaber is now a mainstay with Abna Sakhnin who play in the Israeli top tier and despite the club enjoying a different status given its role as the Palestinian club in the league the left back has yet to be called back up.
No one really knows why. The oft mentioned reason is that the PFA does not call players who play in the Israeli Leagues but they have bucked that trend before at youth level and more recently Reebal Dahamshe played for the national team whilst on the books of Hapoel Nof HaGalil.
When Palestine first joined FIFA in 1998 there was a conscious choice to call up players from teams in the West Bank and Gaza. The man who led the team, Azmi Nassar, did so knowing that a pipeline of talent needed to be built from the clubs to the national teams. If 23 years ago, Palestine did not make that choice they would be wholly dependent on what is tantamount to a foreign league to supply all their players- a risky and perhaps unsustainable proposition.
That said, we live in a different era now and it seems to me that the national team programs are a little reluctant to stack talent. I am not saying that the WBPL and the GL don’t have important roles to play in providing players to the national team but it should be harder to get into the national team in 2021 than it was in 2011- especially if you are over the age of 25 and still plying your trade domestically.
Which brings us to the case of Mahmoud Jaber and many others like him plying their trades for Israeli clubs because they happened to be born a couple of miles west or north of an arbitrary line.
Mahmoud has rejected Israeli national team call ups time and time again. I think the services of his brother and his entire family to the cause is pretty evident. At what point in time will the PFA come to its senses and call up a breakthrough talent. The younger Jaber was the second division’s best players and was the sterling force behind Hapoel Nof HaGalil’s promotion to the top tier. He was so good, in fact, that Maccabi Haifa came back and signed the former youth product. Not only that, he is playing in a league that hardly ever gives opportunities to young players and getting experience in Europe by playing against the likes of Feyenoord and Union Berlin in the UEFA Conference League.
Palestine’s options at Mahmoud Jaber’s position aren’t exactly plentiful. Mohammed Rashid is the presumptive starter and the veteran Mohammed Darweesh just turned 30. After those two there is a huge dropoff and a pool of untested players at Olympic Team level (Mahmoud qualifies for that age group as well).
If the PFA ignores the brother of its fifth most capped player all time what chance do other Palestinian players born in Nazareth, Haifa, Tayibe, and Jaffa have?
It’s time to end this farce and bring back Abdallah Jaber and hand a call up to Mahmoud as well. Let’s start with these two whose loyalties cannot be questioned and then let’s devise a plan to recruit the best players from all across historic Palestine.
Congratulations you’ve read until the end of the article! You’re probably a big fan of Palestinian Football and are looking for ways to be more involved, and are ready willing and able to support Palestinian Football in anyway you can. If that is the case check out the Canaan FC Project