Tuesday 05 March 2019, 12:03

Palestinian football set for the future with refreshed stadium and new modern facilities

Palestine has one of the oldest histories of organised football in the Middle East with evidence of the game being played at a structured level amongst Palestinian youth since at least the early 1920s. Alongside many other territories in the region, its population has always had a vibrant passion for football.

Until recently, the the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) was lacking quality facilities and qualified staff. During winter season, the stadium could be fully under water due to the absence of drainage or adapted infrastructures. To grow the interest of local sponsors and support youth development, the PFA received financial support from the FIFA Forward programme to develop and improve facilities conforming to international standards.

With the support of the FIFA Forward programme, the member association started renovating its oldest stadium, the Faisal al-Husseini International Stadium, and installed additional seats, a drainage system and the latest generation of artificial turf enabling the organisation to host official international and domestic matches - allowing the facility to set the standards for all new pitches in Palestine.

This will not only allow more players to train and new talents to emerge, it will also facilitate more activities for income generation. This will provide the member association with sustainable revenues to pursue the development of football for all players in the middle eastern territory, which has a population of nearly five million people.

Palestine was admitted into FIFA in 1998 and has yet to qualify for the FIFA World Cup™. Their national team played their first friendly matches against Lebanon, Jordan and Syria in July 1998 and first qualified for the AFC Asian Cup in May 2014, after beating the Philippines 1-0 in the AFC Challenge Cup final. The national team went on to reach an all-time high position of 73rd in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in February 2018. Palestine's first title was the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup and they also qualified for the 2019 Asian Cup.

Thanks to the support of the Forward programme, a new home for the national team has emerged and the PFA is now able to fulfil its mission and ambition: to "promote, develop and protect the game of Football for all Palestinians and become a leading example of a modern sport organisation, allowing us to offer our youth a bright future and the opportunity to compete with the best."