Palestinian Football History

Palestinians made their own football history, being the only team – in the words of one blogger – with a stadium but no country.

Palestinian Haitham Sabbah is bubbling with excitement and pride as he types:

At last, Palestinians now have a new way to express their national pride – through soccer.

Delving into history, Sabbah explains:

The Palestinian team has existed for a decade, but until today the Palestinian squad played its “home games” in Arab countries, including Jordan and Qatar, although Palestine has been a FIFA member since 1998. The reason is simple: for years it has been denied a home ground and it was forced to train and play overseas due to Israeli occupation. Today is no different with Israel still occupying the Palestinian territories, however, as a form of resistance, Palestine’s football team decided to makes history with its first ever international game at home. Palestine – taking on Jordan in their first home game – will be the only team now with a ground, but without a country.

More from Sabbah here.

Writing on Kabobfest, Diana, who was at the game, sets the scene:

It was a great scene: the newly renovated Faisal Husseini stadium was filled with some 8,000 Palestinian football fans, waiting to see their team play – for the first time.

She adds:

Since October, FIFA and the PFA have worked to renovate the stadium to bring it to international footballing standards. The Faisal Husseini stadium was inaugurated by FIFA President Joseph Blatter who, earlier in the day, also kicked off the Palestinian women's football league in Ramallah. In a press conference earlier in the day, Blatter announced, “Football brings people together.” Indeed…except if you are members of the Palestinian team barred from attending the game because you live in Gaza or except if you are among the 90 percent of Palestinians who could not attend the game because of Israel's repugnant travel restrictions (the stadium is located in Al-Ram (behind the Wall) and Palestinians need Israeli-issued permits in order to be able to attend a football match).

This did not dampen the mood among the crowds who turned up for the game. Diana says:

Despite this, the atmosphere was electric: Palestinian songs (including my fave – the kuffiya song – were belted throughout the stadium); huge Palestinian flags were raised and we all got a chance to witness the beautiful game…

The game resulted in a draw.

Bruised Earth, who is in the UK, wanted a share in this victory – but that was not to be:

OK this isn’t funny anymore. In the throes of my Palestinian football fervor, I spent nearly 4 hours online yesterday trying to simply locate and purchase a Palestine National Team football jersey. Brimming with respect for the accomplishments of the Palestinian National side against Jordan in Ramallah on Sunday, I felt it my duty to proudly sport the kit around London (at least before it gets too cold) – while trying to politically dilute the annoying club football jerseys you see at every turn.

The result – absolutely NOTHING. Apparently had I desired the national team jersey of Namibia or Kazakhstan or perhaps that casino-rich little island nation of Macau (pop. 400K) I’d be in business.

From the UK, View from North Britain, says sports is a factor in modern national identity. He notes:

In fact, sport is the only realm where Palestine officially exists, in all other areas the Palestine people are represented by the Palestinian Authority, even at the UN.

So having an actual Palestine football team playing in the West Bank must be incredibly symbolic to Palestinians. It represents another step on the road to a fully independent Palestine.

The blogger also links to this video from Sky News on YouTube:

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