On July 3rd, Palestine’s national team played their first ever World Cup home game, an early qualifier for the 2014 tournament in Brazil. Because of the poor security situation, Palestine has had to play their “home” games in neighboring Jordan. Last Sunday, 9,000 eager fans turned up at the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in Al-Ram. Palestine managed a 1-1 draw with Afghanistan, thanks to Houssam Wadi’s incredible lob from 35 yards in the 11th minute. Bilal Azou leveled the match with a 63rd minute goal but it was too little too late for the Afghanis.
Afghanistan have had their own troubles with security. The first leg, which Palestine won 2-0, was played in Tajikistan. The overall result, 3-1 on aggregate, was good enough to see Palestine through to the next round of qualifiers against Thailand.
The team has little chance of making it to Brazil but will be hoping for strong showings in the qualifiers, as the security situation improves. They will also need more cooperation from Israeli authorities. Over the last few years, Israel has denied the team exit visas, forcing Palestine to forfeit previous World Cup qualifiers and the 2008 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup.