Sunday, December 6, 2009

Football (Mandate) Palestine: 1928-1948

According to the Palestine Football Association, Palestine was the first Asian Arab team to participate in international competition. They are of course referring to the 1934 and 1938 World Cup qualifiers.

In 1928 the Palestine Football Association was established in British Mandate Palestine. To figure out who this organization really represented, one could take a look at the squad lists that participated in the Greece and Egypt qualifiers and notice that there is not a single Arab name. The truth about the mandate era Palestine Football Association's inception is that it was part of a larger Zionist attempt to gain international legitimacy for Jews in Mandate Palestine and consequently, Arabs were deliberately left out of the teams fielded. And the reason Egypt played a Zionist team was because they were under a British mandate as well. For further reading on this: a great article by Issam Khalidi.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian FAs lay claim to the pre-1948 matches and list their establishment dates at 1928. So which of the modern associations is the rightful successor of the mandate era association?
FIFA took its usual neutral stance on the issue. It has recognized both the Israeli and Palestinian FAs as being established in 1928 and according to the archive, both teams played their first matches in 1948 and 1998 respectively (it used to be that the Mandate games were in the archives of both teams).

To me it doesn't feel right for us to recognize the mandate FA as our own simply because that association was Zionist in essence. Then again, allowing the Israeli FA to have exclusive claim over it fulfills their political goals (technically the team was supposed to represent BOTH Arabs and Jews and not be exclusionist). Thats why I think the FIFA position is the best to take.

We openly accept the mandate team as our own so as to highlight how established football is in Palestine and in light of the above facts, you can legitimately ask whether we are deluding ourselves. My answer to that is no. While we did not have an Arab international team per se, football has a long history among Arabs in Palestine that predates 1928. The established clubs in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gaza and elsewhere prove this.


Eran Rabl said...

First, I'll admit I'm Israeli. I'll understand if you'd want me back into a silent reader mode.

Second, I have at home a book called "100 years of football in Israel" (I know, incorrect name; I'm not the author), which, of course, goes over the history of football in the territory between the sea and the Jordan river (whatever name you'd call it), mainly for the years before 1948.

I've read there today an interesting fact: Jews give much credit to Arabs for bringing the game into the land. It seems that in the time before WW1 students who learned in Beirut were taught the game, and brought it back home, and taught the people there, including the Jews.

Also, I have read that around these times (I cannot recall if it's 1913 or 1916) there were matches between Arab and Jewish teams. The author quotes match details from an Arab newspaper called Al-Akhbar.

My questions are:

1. Where did football started for the Arabs in Palestine?
2. Which club were the first?
3. What details is there about the first Arab football match in Palestine?
4. In that book it is told of a Jewish regional football league (not affiliated with any FA, of course), which operated around Tel Aviv in 1922/23. What is the first Arab football league in Palestine?

Abdel-Rahman said...

Hello Eran,
You are more than welcome to comment and thanks for sharing your knowledge.

According to the official narrative, the first Arab football team was formed in Al Rawda School in Jerusalem in 1908 and the first Arab clubs were formed in Jerusalem(AlOrthodoxy,Dajani), Akka(Islami), Haifa(Islami) and Gaza(AlOrthodoxy, Riyadi, Arabi) and they competed against each other. I have no idea about the details of these matches.

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Anonymous said...

Any One help with results and dates etc for the British Police FC in the 1930's or before. GWB (UK)

Pay per head software said...

that is pretty interesting, I like history and I tend to read the football history of Brazil, Germany and Argentina, and I found it pretty educative, and so is this Palestine Football period from 1928 to 1948 as well