Monday, February 27, 2017

Shabab Al-Khaleel plunged into managerial crisis

Raed Assaf- back at the helm again.
Shabab Al-Khaleel breathed easy this weekend with a 2-0 win over Shabab Al-Dora. The stress was so visible on the faces of the defending champions that goalkeeper Ghanem Mahajneh burst into tears upon witnessing Ahmad Abu Nahyeh's opener. 

Ashraf Nu'man sealed the hard fought win seconds before the final whistle capitalizing on a Mohammed Shbair's errant goalkeeping. 

The encounter marked the last game of the brief Ayman Sandouqa era. The decision to part ways with the manager was one forced on them by the PFA who wanted Sandouqa to lead the Olympic team in their forthcoming tournaments- the Islamic Solidarity games and U23 AFC Championship qualifying. 

As a result, the team has decided to re-hire Raed Assaf- whom they fired in November. 

In a bizarre set of circumstances, Fahed Attal who is still currently on the club's books as a player will take over managerial duties in the interim. 

Attal, who is Palestine's all-time leading scorer, recently obtained his AFC B-coaching license. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Will Oday Al-Dabbagh break out in 2017?

Palestine, for the first time in a long time, have a teen sensation on their hands. Given the less than spectacular youth development scheme this comes as a bit of a rarity. 

So called "young" players in Palestine tend to be in their early 20s with very few actually garnering meaningful minutes with their WBPL sides. As a result, Palestine haven't had their own version of Wayne Rooney, Landon Donovan, Lionel Messi, or Giuanliugi Donnarumma. 

The prominent youngsters from days past all made their debut at 20-21 years of age. That includes Ramzi Saleh (20), Mus'ab Battat (20), Abdallah Jaber (21), Fahed Attal (20), and Ismail Amour (21).    
That might be about to change. In fact, many followers of the WBPL might contest the headline of this article, as Oday Al-Dabbagh has already lit up the domestic league.




More after the jump...

Monday, February 20, 2017

Barakat calls up 27 Palestine based players for first Asian Cup camp

Palestine in their last official game (Friendly vs. Lebanon)
Over the weekend, national team manager Abdel Nasser Barakat and the Palestinian Football Association released their plan for Asian Cup qualifying preparation. For the next month, the national team will train together for three days a week. The initial list includes 26 players plying their trade in the WBPL as well as national team captain, Abdelatif Bahdari.

WBPL leaders Hilal Al-Quds have the largest contingent of players (7), followed by holder Shabab Al-Khaleel (6) and Palestine Cup holders Ahli Al-Khaleel (5).

Notable absences include Mohammed Abu Khamis, Pablo Tamburrini, and Alexis Norambuena. The triumvirate all saw action during Palestine's World Cup qualifying campaign in addition to Khader Yousef and Mahmoud Sheikhqasem who haven't featured in Abdel Nasser Barakat's plans as of late.

Palestine is expected to play a friendly ahead of their first 2019 Asian Cup qualifier, vs. Maldives (March 28th).

The list of 27 domestically based players will be whittled down and a large contingent of Palestinian players playing abroad is expected to join the squad as well.

Squad Details after the jump...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Questions linger 40 days from Palestine's ACQ opener


Anyway you slice it, Palestine dodged a bullet during last month's Asian Cup qualifying draw avoiding the group of death alongside the likes of Lebanon and Korea DPR. Instead, they have had the fortune of landing in Group D- where Maldives and Bhutan stand little chance of spoiling Palestine and Oman's march to UAE 2019.

Furthermore, the order of matches could not have been kinder- with Palestine avoiding their toughest fixture, away to Oman, until March of 2018.

Qualifying for most continental championships involves a basic formula- win at home, draw on the road. Palestine are still undefeated in all official FIFA sanctioned matches played on Palestinian soil and despite the limited sample size of five games over nine years- the artificial surface and vociferous support (as we saw against the UAE) makes Palestine a very tough proposition for even the strongest teams in Asia.

Away from home, Palestine are battle tested, able to hold their own in a multitude of different environments. Keep in mind, Palestine qualified for the 2015 Asian Cup by playing six encounters on neutral ground and two away. Their record (albeit against weaker opposition) was a sterling 6-2-0 with no goals conceded.

The top five issues facing Palestine after the jump...

Monday, February 6, 2017

AFC Cup: Shabab Al-Khaleel out after an error-strewn performance


What started out well for the Hebronite side ended in complete disaster. Protecting a slender 2-1 advantage, Shabab Al-Khaleel knew that a place at the group stage of the AFC Cup would be theirs if they could defend stoutly.

Their bubble was quickly burst when Al-Suwaiq opened the scoring after Mu'amin Eghbariyeh comically diverted the ball into his own net in the 22nd minute.

Al-Ghassani doubled the scoreline for Al-Suwaiq just before halftime. Eghbariyeh again was found wanting, allowing his mark to float into a dangerous position to receive an uncontested cross.

Fahed Attal came on at halftime and nearly scored for the second game in a row. The captain's well timed header crashed off the post as Shabab desperately pushed bodies forward in search of an equalizer.

Al-Suwaiq put the match to rest with the third goal off a slick counter. Al-Nofli crowning what was a relatively easy night for the Sultan Cup champions.

Shabab Al-Khaleel threatened again- with a long range effort from Alaa Abu Saleh that hit the woodwork and eluded the on rushing Fahed Attal.

Osama Shaban- perhaps the best player over the two legs- pulled back a consolation goal deep into injury time to make the score 3-1.

The discombobulated Shabab Al-Khaleel didn't look anything like the team that won the WBPL at a canter last season. In fact a 4-3 aggregate scoreline papers over the cracks. This team had no ideas in attack with Ashraf Nu'man anonymous over the two legs, Pablo Tamburini and Alexis Norambuena mysteriously absent, and Ahmad Abu Nahyeh looks nothing like the player he was last season.

The ambitious Shabab Al-Khaleel project will, and most likely should, be disbanded for something more sustainable. That said, the loss is a painful one for all Palestinian football fans who had hoped to see at least one Palestinian club participating in continental football this season.

Fans can only hope that the eventual 2016/17 champions are able to maintain something close to their current form if only to help Palestine secure more AFC Cup slots going forward.