Palestine national football team

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Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s) الفدائيون (The Fedayeen)
الفرسان (The Knights)
أسود كنعان (Lions of Canaan)
Association Palestinian Football Association
Confederation AFC (Asia)
Sub-confederation WAFF (West Asia)
Head coach Flag of Palestine.svg Abdel Nasser Barakat
Captain Abdelatif Bahdari
Most caps Ramzi Saleh (107)
Top scorer Fahed Attal, Ashraf Nu'man (14)
Home stadium Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 120 Decrease 2 (20 October 2016)
Highest 85 (July 2014)
Lowest 191 (April–August 1999)
Elo ranking
Current 119 (29 June 2016)
Highest 118 (Spring 2016)
Lowest 159 (October 2011)
First international
 Egypt 8–1 Palestine State of Palestine
(Alexandria, Egypt; 26 July 1953)
Biggest win
State of Palestine Palestine 11–0 Guam 
(Dhaka, Bangladesh; 1 April 2006)
Biggest defeat
 Egypt 8–1 Palestine State of Palestine
(Alexandria, Egypt; 26 July 1953)
 Iran 7–0 Palestine State of Palestine
(Tehran, Iran; 5 October 2011)
Asian Cup
Appearances 1 (First in 2015)
Best result Group stage, 2015

The Palestine national football team (Arabic: منتخب فلسطين لكرة القدم‎‎) is the national football team of Palestinian National Authority and represents the Authority in international football.[1]

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. At the finals in Australia, they were eliminated in the group stage.

The team reached an all-time high position of 85th in the FIFA ranking in July 2014 after winning the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. 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.[2] In recognition of their efforts the Palestinian Football Federation was awarded FIFA's inaugural Development Award and AFC National Team of the Year.[3]


Palestine applied to, and was admitted into FIFA in 1998. They played their first friendly matches against Lebanon, Jordan and Syria in July 1998. The following year, the team, led by Israeli-Arab coach Azmi Nasser took part in the 1999 Pan Arab Games, in which they won the bronze medal after beating Syria, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, while only losing to hosts Jordan.

Palestine's first attempt to qualify for the 2000 AFC Asian Cup and the 2002 FIFA World Cup were unsuccessful, but saw victories against Hong Kong and Malaysia.

In 2002, the PFA hired Nicola Hadwa Shahwan as manager. Shahwan, who was born in Beit Jala, grew up in Chile and had many connections among Santiago's Palestinian community, whence he brought Roberto Bishara, Roberto Kettlun, Edgardo Abdala, Francisco Atura and the Argentine-born Pablo Abdala into the squad. These players made their debuts in the 2002 Arab Nations Cup. The team exited in the group stage but managed draws against group winners Jordan, hosts Kuwait, and Sudan, with their only loss coming against eventual semi-finalists Morocco.

In 2004, two more Arab Latin Americans joined the Palestinian national team Hernán Madrid and the Argentine-born Alejandro Naif.

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.

In 2008, with the assistance of FIFA's Goal program, Jibril Rajoub, head of the PFA had the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium built, and on 26 October 2008 Palestine held a match on home soil for the first time since becoming a member of FIFA, a 1–1 draw with Jordan in front of a crowd in excess of 7,000.[2] Palestine received the inaugural FIFA Development Award in recognition of the achievement.[3]

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.[4] However, as Thailand was ordered to forfeit the first match because of fielding an ineligible player,[5] 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,[6] they lost the return leg by 1–2[7] and eliminated by away goals rule.[8]

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.

Mahmoud led the team three months later at the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. In the run up to the competition, Palestine made history by playing and defeating its first UEFA opponent, Azerbaijan, 2–0. Preparation for the competition was less than ideal with Abdelatif Bahdari, Roberto Bishara, Omar Jarun, Majed Abusidu, Ali El-Khatib, and Imad Zatara unavailable due to club commitments and having Raed Fares, Haitham Theeb, Ismail Amour, Mohammed Al-Masri, Rafit Eyad and Murad Alyan out with injury. Palestine were further denied the services of many players based in Lebanon due to visa issues. Despite these hardships Palestine finished group play at the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup without conceding a goal after 2–0 wins over Nepal and Maldives along with a 0–0 draw against Turkmenistan.

Palestine won their first West Asian Football Federation Championship match in 2012, defeating Lebanon 1–0 in Kuwait City. In 2013, They secured a second straight AFC Challenge Cup berth, qualifying for the 2014 edition by topping Group D with 7 points, ahead of Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The team ended up winning the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup without conceding a goal and drawing just one out of five games. The win brought the Palestine team their first major trophy and assured them of participation in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, also their first ever. They were placed in Group D alongside Japan, Jordan and Iraq which lost all three group matches. They were defeated 0–4 by Japan, lost 1–5 to Jordan and finished their campaign with a 0–2 loss to Iraq.

Home matches in Palestine (Official)[edit]

  Win   Draw   Loss

Date Venue Opponent Result Competition Palestine scorers
26 October 2008 Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, Jerusalem  Jordan 1–1 Friendly Ahmed Keshkesh
3 July 2011 Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, Jerusalem  Afghanistan 1–1 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying Houssam Wadi
28 July 2011 Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, Jerusalem  Thailand 2–2 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying Murad Alyan (2)
8 September 2015 Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, Jerusalem  United Arab Emirates 0–0 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying
29 March 2016 Dora International Stadium, Hebron  Timor-Leste 7–0 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying Yashir Pinto (2), Jonathan Cantillana (2), Jaka Ihbeisheh, Ahmed Awad, Abdelatif Bahdari

Problems relating to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict[edit]

The Palestinian Football Federation faces problems in training and playing due to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

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.[9] Recently, Israel's refusal to issue exit visas has resulted in players, or in some case the entire team, being unable to represent the territories. 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

Striker Ziyad Al-Kord was banned from traveling and had his house destroyed.[13] Tariq al Quto was killed by the Israel Defense Forces,[14] and during the Operation Cast Lead three Palestinian footballers, Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe, were among the Palestinian casualties.[15]

Mahmoud Sarsak was administratively detained by Israel in July 2009 for being a member of Islamic Jihad; following a hunger strike and international pressure on his behalf from FIFA President Sepp Blatter, he was released in July 2012.[16] In 2012, Olympic Team goalkeeper Omar Abu Ruways was arrested by Israel for being a member of a terrorist cell.[17]

Sameh Maraaba was arrested in April after returning with his team from training in Qatar. The Shin Bet accused Maraaba of exploiting his status as a Palestinian football player to act as a courier for Hamas. [18] Shin Bet released a statement in which it was contended that Maraaba admitted that, before he left for Qatar, he met a senior Hamas operative in Kalkilya, asked him to meet an operative from Hamas' military wing in Qatar and received money, a cellphone and written messages which he brought back to Hamas operatives in Kalkilya. [18]

Palestinian facilities, such as Palestine Stadium, have been damaged in military conflicts.[19]

The team's former goalkeeper Abu Rwayyis was arrested in connection with an attack on IDF soldiers in April 2012.[20]

Competition records[edit]