Palestine had the honour of being the first Asian team to compete in FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers back in 1934, when they played and lost two matches against Egypt in Italy. It was another 66 years before they featured again, this time campaigning to reach the finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. Their search for success continues even if the gulf in quality between Palestine and the more established Asian sides makes that a formidable challenge.
The current crop
Palestinian football is undergoing something of a renaissance at present, with the country making its presence felt in all age groups in the qualifying stages of competitions in the Arab world and at Asian level. Palestine’s club sides have also made a return to continental football. However, a major breakthrough on the continental scene is what they desperately need, having failed to progress beyond Asia’s qualifying rounds for Brazil 2014 with a 3-2 aggregate defeat against Thailand.
The key players
Participating in continental and international football has given Palestinian football greater professionalism. Star goalkeeper Ramzi Saleh has been wowing fans at Egyptian giants Al Ahly, where he plied his trade until recently. Other players to watch include Fadi Lafi and Fahd Al Attal.
Coach: Moussa Bezaz
Best performance in a FIFA competition: 1934 FIFA World Cup Italy (Qualifying match)
Former stars: Saeb Jundiya, Ziad Al Kurd, Khaldun Fahd