Palestine v United Arab Emirates
Tuesday 8 September 2015 – kick off 5pm
World Cup 2018 Asia qualifier round
Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium
by Mark Baber
Headlines around the world have been incorrectly proclaiming ‘Palestinians ready to host 1st ever World Cup qualifier’, ahead of Tuesday’s 2018 qualifier against UAE which will be held at the Faysal Al-Husseini Stadium in Al Ram.
The history of the Palestinian Football Federation is somewhat disputed, but one thing which is for sure is that the Palestinians hosted Afghanistan in the first round of the AFC qualification for the 2014 World Cup – a match which they drew 1-1 giving them a 3-1 aggregate win.
They faced Thailand in the second round, including a home match on 28 July 2011 at Al-Ram which was drawn 2-2, leading to the home team going out, 2-3 on aggregate.
The Associated Press, appears to be the source of the incorrect story which was picked up by newspapers including the New York Times, Washington Post, Ynet in Israel and Yahoo News.
Interestingly, before the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, a team from Palestine took part in qualifying for both the 1934 and 1938 World Cups. In 1934 this ‘Palestine’ team from the territory of the Palestine Mandate, under the tutelage of the Palestine Football Association set up in 1928, lost 4-1 to Egypt at the ground of Hapoel Jerusalem, thus failing to qualify for the 1934 World Cup. The history of the Palestine Mandate team is claimed by both Palestine and Israel, although Britain could be said to have a strong claim given the majority of players in the 1934 team were British. The team was solely composed by Jewish players because the PFA of that time was called ‘PFA – Eretz Israel FA’.
In any case, Tuesday’s game, if not ground-breaking in itself, marks a further consolidation of Palestine’s position in international football and could yet prove historic – in so far as Palestine are yet to lose at the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, which was built in 2008 thanks to funding from FIFA’s Goal programme and in which Palestine played their first international competitive game (as a qualifier for the 2012 Olympic Games) in March 2011.
Video footage and photos courtesy: Football Palestine