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Political goal achieved, Palestine focus on sport

With the sudden loss of their previous coach, friendly matches cancelled and players blocked from travel, Palestine have battled against the odds

Published: Updated:

Palestine’s political goal was achieved during their Asian Cup opener against Japan and they will now focus on the sport as they seek to upset Jordan in their second group match, coach Ahmed Al Hassan said on Thursday.

With the sudden loss of their previous coach, friendly matches cancelled and players blocked from travel, Palestine have battled against the odds just to make the continental showpiece in Australia and their pride was undimmed by their 4-0 humbling by Japan in Newcastle.

“We came to Australia to achieve two goals, unlike the other 15 teams who have one goal,” Al Hassan, who stepped up from assistant coach when his former boss Jamal Mahmoud quit suddenly in September, told reporters in Melbourne.

“The first one is political, the other one is sport.

“The first point was achieved when we saw the name Palestine and the Palestinian flag was raised at the first match. And we heard the Palestinian national anthem and the message of our people was delivered through this match.

“This was a very important message to give.”

Ranked 113th in the world, Palestine take on Jordan at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Friday, with both teams desperate for a win to keep their quarter-finals hopes alive.

“From the sport perspective, (the goal) has two points, the first point is to play a match against Jordan that is up to the challenge and to achieve a victory for Palestine,” Al Hassan said.

“The other... is if we win against Jordan tomorrow that we are going to play against Iraq with high motivation and the intention and determination for another victory to make it to the next round.

“And then we can go back home and say we have achieved these two objectives.”

Palestine are down to only 20 available players from their maximum squad of 23, with defender Haytham Theeb unable to join the squad in Australia, fellow defender Ahmed Mahajne suspended for two yellow cards and Poland-based midfielder Alexis Norabuena out injured.

Beating neighboring Jordan will be a tough ask but Palestine defender Abdallatif Al-Bahdari at least has inside information on their opponents, having played with many of them at Jordan Premier League champions Al-Wehdat.

“Tomorrow I’m going to play against seven of my team mates,” the 30-year-old told reporters. “And I will do my best to perform in a way to make a victory and defeat my seven friends from the same club.”