Palestinian footballers overcome adversity to reach Asian CupOn 01/31/2019 by admin
READ: Football under fire
Thousands of Palestinian fans celebrated in May when the team beat the Philippines to qualify for the competition in January.
Now, coach Saeb Jendeya is getting them ready to travel to Australia, even though 70 per cent of his neighbourhood in Gaza was flattened during the recent war, and his home hit by several rockets.
“It’s not something you get over easily,” he told Amos Roberts from SBS’s Dateline. “But the national team requires our presence… life has to go on.”
At training, he told the team, “You’re not just sportsmen, you carry a message to the world, saying ‘We have the right to a country and a better life.’”
But the Palestinian Football Association still doesn’t know who it will be able to send to the competition, because players and officials are often turned back at the border.
Even the Football Association’s chairman is not immune, especially when crossing the border with Jordan.
“I have to wait four and five hours on the bridge,” Jibril Rajoub told Amos. “And even sometimes humiliated by those racist Israelis just because I am in charge of football.”
The difficulties of life under occupation mean player Abdelhamid Abuhabib must make a 48 hour trip via Jordan and Egypt to travel from the West Bank to his family home 60 kilometres away in Gaza.
Palestine may not be officially recognised by some countries, including Australia, but it is recognised by FIFA.
“It’s unbelievable to see the Palestinian national team in the first 16 teams in Asia,” former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne and advisor to the team told Roberts. “It’s a miracle.”
The Palestinian Football Association has warned Israel that if things don’t improve it will call for its suspension from FIFA.
Dateline approached the Israeli Sport and Culture Minister, the Prime Minister’s spokesman and Foreign Ministry spokesman and the Israeli Football Association, but they refused to comment about this story.
“To me, football was initially just a sport,” one fan told Amos. “Then football became a form of resistance really… a method of conveying the Palestinians’ message.”
Watch the full ‘Field of Dreams’ story above.