In 2014, Palestine football enjoyed their biggest success in the global footballing stage as they won the AFC Challenge Cup and qualified for Asian Cup. It was a fairy tale story, which caught the eye of the international media, and was viewed as an inspiration for emerging countries. For a war torn country, the success of AFC Challenge Cup gave the people of Palestine a reason to celebrate. Even though the team is forced to play their home games in a neutral venue, Palestine team has a strong following back home.
Following the success of the Asian Cup, Palestine football federation took the next step in making their team stronger. Several players of Palestine decent, are playing in high levels across the globe. Palestine Football Federation took the necessary measures to bring these players in to the national team fold. With several players given opportunity to join the Palestine national team, the team is strengthen with talent and experience the players making their trade abroad brings in.
As Palestine gears up to face Maldives in Asian Cup qualifying on Tuesday, they have much changed squad compared to the one we saw in the AFC Challenge Cup 2014, which was hosted by the Maldives. Star players of that tournament Ashraf Numan and Murad Ismail is not involved in the squad currently. The current team is compiled with several players born in Chile, Palestine and Slovenia.
Total of 5 players born in Chile is currently in the Palestine squad. Among them, Matias Jadue and Yashir Pinto are two strikers playing in the Malaysian Super League. Perak FA striker Pinto began his international career in 2016, and has scored 3 goals in 4 appearances for Palestine. Jadue, who has played for Palestine since 2014, is currently playing for PKNS FC .
Defender Alexis Norambuena, midfielders Jonathan Cantillana and Pablo Tamburrini are also players born in Chile.
In addition to the South American contingent, midfielders Mohammed Darwish, Shadi Shaban and forward Ahmad Abu Nahyeh are players born in Israel. While Midfielder Jaka Ihbeisheh was born in Slovenia.
Compared to the Palestine team which competed in the AFC Challenge cup in 2014, the current Palestine team is expected to be much stronger. Maldives will face a huge challenge, and it will surely be an upset if Maldives manages to gain all three points when the two teams meet for the third time.
Maldives first met Palestine in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, with Palestine winning the match 2-0. The most recent meeting between the two side was in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, which ended in a goalless draw.