The Palestine national football team (Arabic: منتخب فلسطين لكرة القدم) is the national football team of the State of Palestine and represents the country in international football.
A football federation in Mandatory Palestine was founded in 1928. However, a team for a future Arab state to be called Palestine was first recognized by FIFA in 1998, after the creation of the Palestinian National Authority. Palestine has yet to qualify for the World Cup. They first qualified for the Asian Cup in May 2014, after beating the Philippines 1-0 in the AFC Challenge Cup final.
The team reached an all-time high position of 94th in the FIFA ranking in June 2014 after winning the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. The previous high the team reached on FIFA ranking was in April 2006 when they were ranked at 115th place. Following their recognition by FIFA, the team played no official fixtures in the Palestinian territories due to security concerns until a match on 26 October 2008 against Jordan in the newly renovated Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in Al-Ram north of Jerusalem, which finished in a 1–1 draw. In recognition of their efforts the Palestinian Football Federation was awarded FIFA's inaugural Development Award.
The game was originally introduced during the time of the British Mandate. Palestine has one of the oldest histories of organized football in the Middle East with evidence of the game being played at an organized level amongst Palestinians youths since at least the early 1920s. Some notable clubs during the early years of Palestinian football were Shabab Al Arab of Haifa, the Orthodox Club of Jerusalem, and Islami Yaffa. During these years, Palestinian stars, such as Jabra Al-Zarqa, George Mardeni, and Majed Assad represented an excellence that was second to none. In fact, Jabra Al-Zarqa received an offer to play for Arsenal FC while playing in the British Army's Haifa League in 1945.
The Eretz Israel Football Association was formed in 1928 and joined FIFA in 1929. It is associated with the Israeli Football Association. At the time the association was made up of Arab clubs, Jewish clubs and clubs representing British policemen and soldiers serving in the region during the British Mandate rule that spanned the period between World War One and the independence of the state of Israel in 1948. The qualification matches for the 1934 and 1938 World Cups were contested by a Mandatory Palestine national football team made up exclusively of Jewish players. In 2014,Palestine won the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives and therefore receiving the last place in the 2015 Asian Cup.
After an unsuccessful Asian Cup qualifying campaign, the PFA hired Austrian coach Alfred Riedl to lead the team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifications. Palestine were drawn in a group alongside Uzbekistan, Iraq and Chinese Taipei. In their first match, Palestine recorded an historic 8–0 win against the Taiwanese; two months later a 1–1 draw against Iraq put Palestine in first place in the group. Preparation for the team's third game, away to Uzbekistan, were hampered after the Israeli authorities refused travel permits for nearly half the squad. Barely able to put together a full team, Palestine sank to a 3–0 defeat, before losing both of their remaining games.
Palestine were drawn in a group in Asian Cup qualifying for the 2007 tournament alongside 2004 finalists China, eventual winners Iraq, and Singapore. Palestine still had a chance of qualifying until the penultimate round, after a 1–0 win against Singapore and a 2–2 draw against Iraq. Palestine was invited to participate in the inaugural Challenge Cup in Bangladesh, where they beat Guam 11–0, Cambodia 4–0 and drew with Bangladesh to top their group and reach the quarterfinal, where they were beaten 1–0 by Kyrgyzstan. In the summer of 2006, Palestine achieved its highest ever FIFA ranking at 115, placing them 16th in the Asian continent. The team remained without a manager for most of 2007 and preparations for World Cup Qualifying were severely lacking. Palestine lost the first leg of a two-legged play-off against Singapore 0–4 and could not play the return leg as a result of Israeli travel restrictions.
Two and a half years later, in March 2011, Palestine played its first ever competitive home game. The game, at the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, was the second leg of a qualifier for the 2012 Olympic Games, against Thailand. Thailand had won the first leg 1–0 in Bangkok; Palestine won the second 1–0 with a goal by Abdelhamid Abuhabib in the 43rd minute. The draw on aggregate led to a penalty shootout, where Palestine lost by 5–6. However, as Thailand was ordered to forfeit the first match because of fielding an ineligible player, Palestine replaced Thailand to play Bahrain next. In the next round against Bahrain, although Palestine won the first leg at Bahrain National Stadium by 1–0, they lost the return leg by 1–2 and eliminated by away goals rule.
The team beat Afghanistan 3–1 on aggregate (2–0 away, 1–1 home) in the first round of AFC qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. They faced Thailand in the second round, with an away match on 23 July 2011 in Buriram, and a home match on 28 July at Al-Ram. Palestine lost the away leg 1–0, with back-up goalkeeper Mohammed Shbair saving a penalty in the dying moments of the match to keep the tie alive. Palestine took a 1–0 lead in the 6th minute of the return leg through a Murad Alyan goal but conceded 10 minutes before halftime, meaning they would have to win by two clear goals in order to advance. Palestine took a 2–1 lead late in the second half but had a man sent off and conceded a goal whilst desperately searching for a winner. They were eliminated from AFC qualification on an aggregate score of 2–3, if the Asian Football Confederation elects to keep the same qualifying format for the 2018 FIFA World Cup they will be ranked 21st and receive a 1st round bye.
The PFA elected not to renew Moussa Bezaz's contract after the team failed to advance to the Third Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying. Former Al-Wehdat player and manager Jamal Mahmoud was announced as the national team manager in November 2011 after two disastrous friendlies without a permanent manager saw the team lose 4–1 and 7–0 to Indonesia and Iran, respectively. His first official match was a friendly against Bahrain in Manama which Palestine won 1–0 courtesy of Ali El-Khatib's first international goal. Palestine lost its first game at the 2011 Pan Arab Games to Jordan but recovered well in their following group games. Earning a well-deserved 1–1 draw and a 2–0 win over 2012 African Cup of Nations finalists Libya and Sudan to advance to the semifinals of the competition. The team eventually exited the competition against eventual champions Bahrain under dubious circumstances when the Bahrainis were awarded a phantom goal in the second half to make the score 3–1.
Because of travel restrictions placed by Israel upon people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the difficulty in obtaining an exit visa from Israel, many players in the team are drawn from the Palestinian diaspora, from as far away as Chile and the United States. Recently, Israel's refusal to issue exit visas has resulted in players, or in some case the entire team, being unable to represent the country. In November 2006 (the last match of 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualification group stage is scheduled), all players based inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip were denied exit visas. The AFC cancelled the match since both teams had been eliminated from the competition by virtue of their previous results against China and Iraq. A film, Goal Dreams, was made about the team attempting to overcome obstacles in the qualification for the 2006 World Cup, who were also featured on the BBC documentary series Frontline Football.
In October 2007, the second leg of a crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier between Palestine and Singapore was not played due to Palestine's inability to obtain exit visas. The AFC and FIFA decided not to reschedule the match despite protests from the PFA, and Singapore was awarded a 3–0 win in a walkover match. In May 2008, the team was not allowed to travel to the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup. After a 2011 World Cup qualifier against Thailand, two starters, Mohammed Samara and Majed Abusidu, were refused entry to the West Bank and therefore could not travel back with the team from Thailand.
Samah Fares Muhamed Marava was arrested in April after returning with his team from training in Qatar. The Shin Bet accused Marava of exploiting his status as a Palestinian football player to act as a courier for Hamas.  According to Marava, before he left for Qatar, a senior Hamas operative in Kalkilya, asked him to meet an operative from Hamas' military wing in Qatar. During the meeting, Marava received money, a cellphone and written messages which he brough back to Hamas operatives in Kalkilya.