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Historic football victory provides another global stage for Palestine

on 33 Comments

Congratulations Palestine

Palestinians erupted in spontaneous jubilation yesterday as their state’s national football team scored a huge victory winning the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup final in the Maldives, qualifying them for Asia Cup 2015, Asia’s biggest football tournament, to be hosted next year in Australia.


Ashraf Al Fawaghra, Coach Jamal Mahmoud, Murad Said (Photo: AFC)

The win followed 5 matches in which Palestine’s team played a “clean sheet,” staving off the competition without conceding a single goal during the tournament:

screen shot

Screen shot Wikipedia

This is the first time Palestine’s national team has qualified for a major international tournament since the establishment of the Palestine Football Federation in 1928, so the victory holds huge significance for Palestine and for Palestinians around the world.


Palestinians celebrate on the streets of Ramallah, Palestine (photo: Getty Images)


Logo: Asia Cup 2015

On Thursday the New York Times quoted the team’s coach Jamal Mahmoud:

“All the people in Palestine will watch and will be happy if we win…the world will see the Palestinian people. This is very important.”

In victory Mahmoud told The National  “advancing to the continental championship would be a platform for the country“:

“This is very important to all Palestine. We want to send a message to the world that we want sports and peace in Palestine,” Mahmoud said. “We can do more things if we have peace in Palestine. It is very important for us to go to the Asian Cup.”

Palestine’s historic qualification was sealed by defeating the Philippines 1-0 after Ashraf Al Fawaghra’s scored a goal in what commentators called a “sublime” “stunning ” free-kick just a minute before the hour mark. Palestine’s champion team also swept the individual awards following the tournament as midfielder Murad Said was named Most Valuable Player and Al Fawaghra took away the top scorer accolade.


Photo: Bhas Kunju

Mahmoud hailed the achievement as historic and dedicated the victory to Jibril Al-Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestine Football Association. Rajoub told AFP:

“This is the best day ever in Palestine football history and it comes at a great time, as we fight to get the Palestine sports rights with FIFA and IOC”. 

On behalf of Palestine, Rajoub will be seeking sanctions against Israel when FIFA’s 64th Congress meets in San Paulo, Brazil on June 9-10. Palestinian superstar Mohammed Assaf is performing at the congress’ opening ceremony on June 10th.

A reader writes in:

The stars aligned for Palestine.  First, the Pope spontaneously stopped his Popemobile and prayed at the Israeli Apartheid wall, giving the Palestinians a decisive PR victory that’s loaded with political symbolism. Then several days later, a second euphoria for Palestine erupted when the Palestinian Soccer team won….

This was a great week for Palestine.

Palestinians celebrate 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualification

Palestinians celebrate 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualification (photo:

 Fans who assembled to watch the match in the port of Gaza (photo: Alaa Shamaly

Fans who assembled to watch the match in the port of Gaza, Palestine  (photo: Alaa Shamaly)

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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33 Responses

  1. Krauss on June 1, 2014, 1:19 am

    I have to add my thanks to you Annie for being on top of this story, as I’m sure there are sources who helped you, too.

    I hope this evolving story line is being kept up, it’s a great narrative as football(real football) is the world’s most popular sport by far.

    • annie on June 1, 2014, 1:57 am

      as I’m sure there are sources who helped you, too.

      krauss, i was on twitter when things erupted yesterday, i retweeted quite a few at the time (you can see them on my twitter feed). i started saving photos from the tweets that i found at the hashtags for asia cup and asia cup challenge. then i just googled around for the news and started collecting links for the story yesterday. taxi also sent me a link last night, and this morning – the kickass blockquote at the base which rocks! phil, an awesome editor, wrote my headline as he so often does.

      • Susie Kneedler on June 1, 2014, 10:59 am

        Wow, Annie, just want to say again: Thanks for caring about this + for fine research, as always. My family follows “football” news, but no one read a peep about the Asia Cup or Palestine. Because of you, we can celebrate, too.

      • just on June 1, 2014, 11:29 am

        I so appreciate the reporting from our Kate and our Annie about this glorious victory that touches millions, and gives a much needed boost to Palestinians everywhere!

      • annie on June 1, 2014, 7:35 pm

        thank you for the sweet thoughts and kind words..

      • just on June 1, 2014, 7:53 pm


        Annie– there was an article in The Guardian today by Jim Murphy re: FIFA/Qatar that was good (imo) that included this bit:

        “Football prides itself on being the most democratic sport in the world. There are almost no limits to playing the game. I have seen the universal power of football to inspire people – whether it’s the South Africans I know who used football to stand up against apartheid, or the children I joined in a kick-about with in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, or the trainee Afghan soldiers I watched playing a game in the Helmand dust.

        Each of them love a simple and once-beautiful sport. However, it’s not the power to inspire the millions but the alleged corruption of the few that now taints the game we love. Ever since the sport broke out of its ghettos in Britain’s public schools more than a century ago it has had a unique appeal.

        This morning those who govern the world’s one genuine global sport are accused not just of corruption in a single bidding process – but of corrupting a noble and egalitarian sporting ideal. The entire sport of football is now on trial.”

      • RoHa on June 1, 2014, 8:51 pm

        The phrase ” broke out of its ghettos in Britain’s public schools ” is misleading. The game had been popular in all classes of society for centuries. (And frequently banned because of the attendant hooliganism.)

        The input from the schools was to develop agreed sets of rules, eventually culminating in the Association rules. (Whence the term “Soccer”.)

        But the game was never the sole preserve of upper class schoolboys.

  2. bilal a on June 1, 2014, 8:26 am

    I don’t get sports nationalism, but I guess its preferable to pride in stealing someone’s country:

    “Growing up at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island, I have fond memories of Jerusalem Day. We celebrated every year with school-wide assemblies and dances, singing “Sisu et Yerushalayim” (Rejoice in Jerusalem) and “Jerusalem of Gold” with pride. Even in high school, I never knew the political significance of the day or imagined that my joy might be at someone else’s expense. Today, I know better.

    [Death to Arabs], ‘Go to Hell, Leftist’ and Other Jerusalem Day Slogans

  3. ahadhaadam on June 1, 2014, 11:48 am

    Am I the only one who is far from jubilant? While I am happy for the team for their achievement, all these symbols of a state – flag, “authority”, Olympic team, football team, ambassadors, etc. only serve to lock Palestinians into the dead-end two state paradigm. Israel doesn’t mind Palestinians having these tokens as long as on the ground the occupation entrenches, the settlements expand and the Palestinian “state” shrinks to a few disconnected enclaves. Israel in fact would not mind that in the public discourse the “conflict” is framed in terms of an “intractable border dispute” between two states, a-la India-Pakistan.

    The two state paradigm is that carrot dangling in front of the Palestinians which prevents them from reaching to the achilles heel of Israel, which is the demand for equal rights.

  4. AlGhorear on June 1, 2014, 12:28 pm

    Annie, thanks for reporting on this amazing win by the Palestinian team, especially considering all of the obstacles they face, including two players shot in the feet by Israel soldiers on their way home from practice and never able to play again and Mahmoud Sarsak Palestinian star who was detained at the border on his way to a national match and imprisoned 3 years without charges, even though he was carrying Israeli issued travel documents. There’s no reason, no justification, nothing to excuse this cruel, common, State sanctioned criminal behavior towards Palestinians, athletes or not. Imagine the outcry and condemnation by the US government if it was Israeli athletes being maimed, detained and tortured.

    It’s wonderful to see all of Palestine celebrate this tremendous victory. It reminds me of the jubilation when Mohammad Assaf won Arab idol.

  5. DaBakr on June 1, 2014, 8:42 pm

    congratulations for a match well played. I only saw part of the last game with the Philippines and it was pretty exciting near the end.

  6. wes on June 2, 2014, 8:34 am

    What a game what a match against all odds how was it possible,qatar here they come.

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