Makram Daboub, the head coach of the Palestinian national football team, takes some solace in the fact that his players stranded in Gaza are safe – at least for now.
The fight to prepare his squad for the start of the 2026 World Cup qualifying matches is his second priority.
Daboub wanted to include Ibrahim Abuimeir, Khaled Al-Nabris and Ahmed Al-Kayed in a training camp in Jordan before the qualifiers, but they could not leave Gaza due to the Israel-Hamas war. moon.
Influential Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi’s words that football is “one of the least important things in life” and that the national team will play against Lebanon next Thursday and Australia on November 21 come true here. Israeli attack on Gaza.
“They’re doing well so far,” Daboub told The Associated Press. However, most of his relatives died as a result of the bombing.”
Two Egyptian players from Gaza, Mohamed Saleh and Mahmoud Wadi, are expected to join the Palestinian team in Jordan.
“With the death and destruction in Gaza, the players are in a difficult psychological situation,” Daboub said.
But according to Susan Shalabi, vice president of the Palestine Football Federation, there is no doubt that the players and the public want the matches to continue.
“This is a people who want to be heard and seen by the rest of the world, who want to live normally like everyone else, so people get arrogant about their national teams,” Shalabi told the AP. “It represents the longing to be recognized as a free and sovereign nation.”
Palestine were originally scheduled to host Australia to start this qualifying round but the match was moved to a neutral venue in Kuwait.
Preparations had already been suspended after the players were unable to leave to participate in a tournament held in Malaysia last month. Now the team is in Jordan so they can travel for matches.
“We will do our best,” Daboub said. “Football is the most popular game in the world. It brings people together. “We wish to achieve good results and demonstrate the Palestinian identity, that this people is a people who deserve life and love peace.”
Temporary home of Israeli football: Viktor Orban’s village
The Israeli national team heads to a small Hungarian village as it prepares to play its remaining home games in the Euro 2024 qualifying tournament due to security concerns. Increase in anti-Semitic sentiments.
Israel, which is chasing qualification for the continental championship for the first time since joining the European football confederation UEFA in 1994, will host “home” matches against Switzerland next Wednesday and Romania three days later.
There’s a catch, though. The games will be played in a lavish stadium thought to be a pet project of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a well-known football fan.
The decision to bring the matches to Felcsut, a village of about 1,900 people where Orbán spent much of his childhood, reflects his deep political closeness with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Yacov Hadas-Handelsman acknowledged that the close relationship between Orbán and Netanyahu played a role in bringing the Israeli team to Felcsut.
“We have a very good combination in the Hungarian government of personal connections and relationships (and) the sheer love of sports and football,” Hadas-Handelsman told the Associated Press.
Even before Hamas attacks on Israel last month, Hungary’s leader had long promoted his country as the safest country in Europe for Jews.
More recently, Orbán banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations following Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip and cited such protests in some Western European cities as evidence that his government is doing a better job than its Western counterparts in combating antisemitism.