Saturday, May 29, 2010

West Bank Premier League: Ayoub, Keshkesh, and Lafi sign

[UPDATE:] (06/01) Majed Balawi claims that Hernan Madrid will sign for a WBPL club. The 29-year-old has played for seven different clubs in Chile's Primera and has represented Palestine on one occasion- a 2006 World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan. Balawi refused to name the specific club he would be joining, but seeing as Madrid has been without a club since December 2009 this move makes sense and gives him an opportunity to play with the National Team again. Balawi said that this move would be the first of many... could we see fan favorite Roberto Kettlun in Palestine sometime soon?

[UPDATE:] (06/01) Ahmed Keshkesh will decide who to sign for after returning from Sudan.

[UPDATE:] (05/31) Wehdat President Tarek Khoury will do all he can to ensure that Ahmed Keshkesh and Abdelatif Bahdari stay at the club. He is also interested in securing the services of Al-Jazeera forward Fahed Attal who is out of contract.

With an eye towards full professionalism of the West Bank League next year many clubs have been attempting to attract Palestinian players who play abroad. While some of these attempts have failed, many players have chosen to sign as a result of being out of contract with their current clubs.

Most notably, Ahmed Keshkesh whose one-year contract ended yesterday will move to Shabab Al-Khaleel (Hebron). Despite scoring 17 goals in all competitions this season Keshkesh never really found his groove often times being played out on the wing to accommodate Wehdat's other forwards. Keshkesh will play one year with Shabab and receive $60,000 a $20,000 raise over his previous contract with Wehdat.

Fadi Lafi, who at 31 will probably finish out his career in the WBPL, will be the highest earning player. The forward has signed for Hilal Al-Quds (Jerusalem) on a one-year $65,000 contract. This is a homecoming for Lafi who started his career at the Jerusalem club.

Al-Amari' hasn't been as successful as some other clubs, attempting to sign Al-Jazeera Amman's young keeper Azmi Shueki. Shueki who featured in the Dynamo Moscow Jericho friendly and is included in the squad list to face Sudan is still under contract with Al-Jazeera and the move will not materialize unless Al-Amar'y can pony up the money for a transfer fee.

And an old and familiar face will be gracing the pitches of Palestine next season. Emad 'Abou El-Khair' Ayoub has signed for Wadi Al-Nes. Little is known about Ayoub and his current form, he has been playing for Tasnee' a third division Egyptian Club and hasn't featured for the national team since 2004.

Keshkesh delivers Wehdat Cup Glory

Keshkesh scores in Final

Keskesh's First Goal in the Semifinal

Keshkesh's Second Goal in the Semifinal

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Upcoming tournaments get tweaked

Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait will participate in this year's WAFF Championship. According to Atlas Sport, Jibril Rajoub, who serves as one of the Federation's VPs was crucial in convincing the heads of the respective FAs. The tournament will feature nine teams (Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria are the others) and will run from the September 24th to October 3rd. Matchdays and Groups will be announced on June 24th. The sixth edition of the tournament is suspected to be more competitive as the teams participating in January's Asian Cup will use these matches to prepare.

The AFC has finally heard our screams and they have decided to change the setup of the Challenge Cup. There will be no direct entry into the competition's final eight. [UPDATE:] Moreover, the format of the competition will be similar to the 2006 format. 16 teams will be placed in four groups of four, the top two teams will advance and play the finals tournament at a centralized location. These changes are expected to be ratified when the AFC Board meets in July. The next Challenge Cup tournament will take place in 2012 with qualifiers being played in March of 2011 and there could be quite a few changes. Direct qualification to the Asian Cup Finals is expected to stay as it is one of Bin Hammam's pet projects. The list of participating teams could change drastically if the AFC decide to classify DPR as a developed association as opposed to developing (this would bar their participation). Moreover, if more underdeveloped associations decide to take part then teams like Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Myanmar, and DPR Korea would be refused entry. This scenario is unlikely, however, as teams like Laos and Timor-Leste have never shown up and at least one team is probably going to withdraw due to unforeseen circumstances.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Transfer News & Speculation: Could Bahdari be headed to the Saudi League?

Kamel Gharib of Al-Aqsa reports that Saudi side Najran are in advanced negotiations with Abdelatif Bahrdari to secure his services for the upcoming season. There are also other reports that say that Bahdari has received several offers from Jordanian, Kuwaiti, and even WBPL clubs. One of the issues here is Bahrdari's contract status, he had originally signed on a 1-year $40,000 contract, but earned an extension of 3 years. At least that is what Al-Ghad and what we then relayed back in July.

Reports are either saying that Bahdari's rights are tied with his former Gaza club- Khadamat Rafah. Others are saying that he is out of contract and could move on a Bosman after playing the Jordanian Cup Final with Wehdat this Friday.

If he does move he will most certainly not be short of choices, the most intriguing and serious offer is the one from Najran. The Saudi side was relegated from the Zain Saudi League this season but are known to be one of those yo-yo clubs (ala West Bromwich Albion). The club would be able to offer him a lot more than his current salary of $40,000/year the downside is that he would have to spend at least a year in the Second Division. The upside is that he could be playing in one of the strongest leagues in Asia in a year's time and could position himself to move to a bigger club or even a bigger league

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Palestinians Abroad: End of Season Roundup

Omar Jarun and Pogon Szczecin lost 1-0 in the Polish Cup final to Jagiellonia, there will be no European football for Jarun next season, but Pogon are widely expected to make the jump to the Ekstraklasa next season.

Majed Abusidu's Tadamon lost on penalties to Al-Jahra and will play in the Kuwaiti first division. Abusidu is not expected to stay with Tadamon as he is out of contract and will most likely move to the Emirati League.

Wehdat have advanced the Jordan Cup Final after beating Al-Ramtha 5-0 in the return leg. Ahmed Keshkesh scored a brace and Abdelatif Bahdari played all 90 minutes in his customary centreback spot. Wehdat will face Al-Arabi, who beat Fahed Attal's Al-Jazeera 3-2 on aggregate, in the final on Friday.

Nîmes Olympique have opted not to pick up the two year option on Imad Zatara's contract. No word yet as to where he might end up.

National Team captain Ramzi Saleh has confirmed that he will leave Al-Ahly in search of playing time somewhere else. He has multiple offers from clubs in Egypt and a couple outside of Egypt, the team most widely tipped to land him is Ittihad Alexandria. Another Alexandria based team- the newly promoted Smouha- is also interested in Ramzi Saleh's services and has been in contact with officials at Al-Ahly.

The Chilean League is taking it's customary break a little early due to La Roja's participation in the World Cup. Roberto Bishara and Palestino lie in 13th on 16 points from 15 games while Edgardo Abdala and Huachipato are in 12th with the same number of points, albeit with 3 games in hand.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Viewer (un)Friendly

Matchdays are tense. The big build up in preceding days and weeks leading to the most nerve racking hour and a half a person can go through. I've always told friends that I'd stop watching Palestine games after I hit 50, itll be bad for my health.

The tension is worse when you have no way of watching the match. Waiting for online scoreboards to refresh is torture. Competing in Asia, the vast and diverse continent it is, we Palestine fans had to experience such situations quite a lot. Here are my misadventures:

Palestine vs Uzbekistan ( 0-3 ) - World Cup 2006 Qualifier: Dubai Sports channel was broadcasting the match, but the UAE was playing at the same time, so we had to settle watching Palestine get hammered from a mini screen that would appear in the corner with every development. Not pleasant.

Chinese Taipei vs Palestine ( 0-1) - World Cup 2006 Qualifier: No channels I had broadcast this match, so the only way to follow it was through the matchcast. Tayseer Amer scored the winner in added time. So in what was to be my last refresh of the page after surrendering to the prospect of a 0-0 tie, I was joyfully surprised.

AFC Challenge Cup 2006 (Bangladesh): The matches were broadcast on ATN Bangla. You needed a special dish to get it here in Riyadh. After trekking into the satellite market and asking around, I was told it would cost me 250 riyals(~$70)..wasn't gonna happen!

AFC Challenge Cup 2010 Qualifiers (Nepal): Internet streaming was well developed at this point, so where a channel was based wasn't a problem anymore. But as luck would have it, the Nepalese channels available online weren't showing the matches. One was broadcasting a traditional Nepali horse festival(called Ghodejatara as we later find out), but at least it had a live scoreboard of the match on display in the corner. Our reaction got the attention of Good times!

Well, whatever your team, we'd love to hear your stories...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Squad list to face Sudan

Manager Mousa Bezaz released the list of players he's called up to face Sudan next month. The fact that the match is in June helps as we've been able to call up many of our players abroad (8).

If there is any experimenting going on its in the defence with a couple of new faces and the absence of veteran Bishara, though the presence of Bahdari and Abusidu will ensure there is experience on the field.
Mohammed Samara will definitely take on a playmaker role and this is a relief as we have been lacking in that position lately. In offense, we have the usual list of strikers.
While questions could be raised, this is the most solid squad we have seen in a while.

Notable call ups: Ramzi Saleh(after a long absence due to club commitments), Mohammed Samara

Notable absences: Roberto Bishara(personal reasons), Ismail Amour(disciplinary reasons)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bahrain match postponed

Rajoub acting like a douchebag in Manama yesterday.

After a meeting between the two FA presidents in Manama yesterday the match scheduled for May 29th in Al-Ram has been postponed. According to Bahraini FA President Sheikh Salman Al-Khalifa this is due to the departure of Milan Macala two weeks ago. No alternate date was announced for a future matchup but it seems that Bahrain is committed to playing the game after Chairman Rajoub guaranteed that the Bahraini team would not be subjected to any Israeli presence during their time in the West Bank.

How the FA Chairman and thuggish slimeball can guarantee this nearly impossible demand remains a mystery. Rajub apparently did make some good of his trip, meeting the Sudani FA head in Doha and arranging a friendly to be played in Khartoum on June 4th.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Palestinians Abroad: Weekend Roundup

Omar Jarun and Pogon Szczecin remain in 5th place, four points off the final Ekstraklasa promotion place. They drew 2-2 with fourth place LKS Lodz, Jarun got his customary 90 minutes marshaling the Pogon defence. Pogon face Górnik Zabrze, who are second and on pace to clinch the final promotion spot on 49 points, this Wednesday.

In France, Imad Zatara failed to make the Nîmes squad but played and scored in the reserve squad's 3-1 win over Ajaccio. Les Crocos will be playing in Ligue 2 again next season, no word yet on whether or not they will pick up the two-year option on Imad's contract.

Roberto Bishara captained Club Deportivo Palestino to a 3-0 win over La Serena to move out of the relegation zone for the first time since the second week of the season. Palestino now lie in 13th place on 16 points. The final game of the Chilean Apertura is next week. Roberto Bishara's Palestino will face Edgardo Abdala's Huachipato (who drew 1-1 with Cobreloa this week). The Chilean season resumes in July with the start of the Clausura.

In Egypt... Ramzi Saleh has said he will make a decision regarding his future at the end of the season. If he does chose to leave Al-Ahly, he will most likely be headed to Ittihad Alexandria. Ramzi Saleh has not featured in any of Al-Ahly's games this season but has been called up to face Bahrain on the 29th. He might get a chance to finally make his debut now that Al-Ahly have wrapped up yet another league title. Over in Nasr City, Mohammed Samara who has scored 4 goals from midfield this season, finds himself in the midst of a battle to stave off relegation. ِArab Contractors are two points above the final relegation spot with matches against ENPPI and Petrojet remaining.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Preparations for Bahrain match

After all the drama, it seems Bahrain is set to visit Palestine at the end of the month. The national team is to enter a training camp on May 17th in the Faisal Husseini Stadium in preparation for facing Bahrain on the 28th. This will be our second official friendly on home soil since hosting Jordan in 2008.

Bahrain and Palestine have met twice before, both times in Bahrain:

The squad list is not finalized, but will be similar to the one that played Dynamo Moscow with the addition of more foreign based players. Updates to follow...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Palestinians Abroad: Abusidu breathes life into Tadamon

Majed Abusidu helped Tadamon beat his former club Al-Salimaya 4-0 yesterday with a barrage of second half goals. Tadamon has moved into the 11th position, guaranteeing them the right to participate in a promotion/relegation playoff with second division side Al-Jahra on May 12th.

The Palestine wingback, who will be out of contract at the end of this season will most likely leave on a Bosman transfer. The side he is most often linked to is Al-Sharjah who finished 6th this past season in the UFL. Back in January, Alwatan Al-Kuwaitiyah reported that Abusidu may be moving to Al-Sharjah in the winter transfer window, but a deal never materialized. The player did confirm, however, the existence of a pre-contractual agreement between him and the Emirati club and his intentions to leave Tadamon if the right opportunity presented itself.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Omar Jarun leads Pogon to Cup Final

What a turn of fortunes. All the way back in July, Jarun was knocked out of the Polish Cup with Flota Swinoujscie. After a move in the winter transfer window to Pogon Szczecin, Jarun stepped in to help the Pomeranian club navigate a path to the final. The semifinal victory over Ruch Chorzow came courtesy of the away goals rule after the two sides played to a hard fought 0-0 draw in Szczecin. Pogon Szczecin will face Ekstraklasa side Jagiellonia Bialystok (who have Alexis Normabuena in their ranks- a Chilean with Palestinian roots who was approached about playing for the National Team) in the final on May 22nd. The winner will advance to the UEFA Europa League. If Pogon win, Omar Jarun will be the first Palestinian player to play in continental European competition.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Palestinians Abroad: Saleh & Keshkesh seek new starts

Ramzi Saleh looks to be close to securing a transfer to Ittihad Alexandria according to several Egyptian news sources. Ramzi Saleh lost the starting job despite stepping in for the out of form Amir Abdelhamid last season to help guide Al-Ahly to yet another Egyptian League Championship. Several factors conspired against Saleh during his stint with the Red Castle. Despite winning player of the month in March 2009, Saleh was widely criticized for a blunder late in the season that forced Al-Ahly into a play-off against Ismaili to decide the title. In the preseason, Saleh suffered an injury that kept him sidelined and allowed youngster Ahmed Adel to lay claim to the starting spot. In the winter transfer window, Amir Abdelhamid departed but Sherif Ekramy was brought in to take over the starting position with Ahmed Adel as his understudy. As a result Ramzi found himself playing as an outfield player during training sessions from time to time. The proposed move to Alexandria should serve Ramzi Saleh well, he still gets to test himself in one of the best leagues in the Arab World. The Palestine captian can still put himself in the European shop window as his soon-to-be-teammate Gedo, is subject to many a European transfer rumor.

FP's Take: Not a bad move, at the end of the day, Ramzi can claim to have played in one of the biggest clubs in the world and he has silverware to show for his time there. Ramzi Saleh reminds me of American shot-stopper Tim Howard in more ways than one. First, their styles are very similar amazing reflexes complemented by a controlled chaos style that seems them command every inch of their box. Howard made the big jump to Europe when he signed for Manchester United in 2003. After winning the Goalkeeper of the Year title, Howard suffered a sophomore slump and lost his starting position to Roy Carroll. In the offseason he went on loan to Everton, impressed and gained a permanent deal. He is now generally considered one of the Premier League's best goalkeepers and is a force for both club and country.

In other news Ahmed Keshkesh is expected to sign for 2008-09 West Bank Premier League Champions Wadi Al-Nees on a free transfer. The WBPL will be transforming into a fully-fledged professional league and this is expected to be one of a series of ambitious signings for the league. Despite scoring some important goals for the club, Keshkesh hasn't lived up to expectations. His goal-tally this season has been in the single digits this season and his performance has attracted the furor of the Wehdat fans.

FP's Take: Disappointing that Keskhkesh couldn't grab the opportunity with both hands but he gets to come home and play a part in making the Palestinian League a successful one. If the league and Keshkesh are successful there will be more international suitors for Palestinian players in the future.

In Chile... CD Palestino beat Audax Italiano in what was termed the showdown of the colonies. Los Arabes won 3-1 thanks in part to a goal by Palestino captain and national team stalwart Roberto Bishara. Palestino continue their ascent up the league under new coach Gustavo Benitez, they are now on in 15th place (a relegation/promotion spot) on 13 points 1 point away from complete safety with three matchdays left until the World Cup break.

In Europe... Imad Zatara failed to make the trip to Strasbourg with Nîmes Olympique. The side look destined to spend another year in Ligue 2 after drawing 1-1 with the Alsatian side. Omar Jarun also failed to appear with Pogon Szczecin's 2-0 against bottom club Stal Stalowa Wola. Pogon are on 44 points with 7 matchdays to go, 4 points off the pace for the final promotion spot to the Ekstraklasa.

In unrelated news, ESPN reports that old friend and ex-National Team manager Alfred Riedl will take over as manager of the Indonesian National Team. We wish him the best of luck.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Majed Abusidu wins Tadamon Player of the Year Award

Palestine wingback Majed Abusidu has been voted Tadamon's best player of the season by the club's fans. Abusidu gained a whopping 37% of the vote. Tadamon who have struggled mightily this season, gaining 5 points from 20 matches, go into the final matchday needing at least a point to have a shot of survival at staying in the first division. The team is in luck as fellow relegation candidates Al-Salibikhaet play championship-chasing Kuwait SC. Tadamon and Abusidu, on the other hand, play third to last Salimiyah. Abusidu should have plenty of motivation, playing against the club that scuppered his moves to Egyptian powerhouse Al-Ahly and fellow KPL side Kazma- a team in the round of 16 of the AFC Cup.

Palestine to face Egypt in Al-Ram

According to Ma'an and Al-Ayyam, and both the Federation FIFA pages Egypt's full senior squad will travel to Palestine on August 8th. If the match does take place it will be second full international to take place in Al-Ram's Faisal Al-Hussieni Memorial Stadium after the innaugural 2008 tie against Jordan. Manager Moussa Bezaz is scheduled to arrive in Palestine sometime this week after the Icelandic volcano delayed his original travel plans. He is expected to put together a training camp, inviting the best players from this season's already concluded West Bank Premier League. No news as of yet if the federation will schedule friendlies this summer to take advantage of the lull in action in Chile, Europe, and the Arab World.

Other murmurs this week are that 2014 World Cup Qualifying will be delayed until March... no word from the AFC as of yet, though.