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Hope amidst the Hardships: Palestine’s Football Team’s Historic Chance to Reach the FIFA World Cup 2026

Adam, Al Mustaqbal School, Palestine

On 26 March 2024, Palestine beat Bangladesh 1-0 in the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers second round in Group I, where Palestine currently takes the 2 nd place. This victory came after a semi-miraculous goal scored by the 25-year-old centre back Michel Termanini in the 90+4th minute, after a series of yellow cards in the full time and a red card for the midfielder Amid Mahajna in the 90+2nd minute.

Palestine’s next two matches are against Lebanon and Australia in June this year. Considering Palestine’s recent performance in the last two games, it has a realistic chance of making it to the 2026 World Cup for the first time in history, with the top goal scorer being the 25-year-old forward Oday Dabbagh.

And this comes right after Palestine’s excellent performance in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qatar, where the team reached the Round of 16 for the first time ever, where it lost to the hosts, Qatar (2-1).

The true importance of this brilliant performance comes in the context of the ongoing war in Gaza, where over a hundred innocent citizens get killed every day. At this devastating time, this football success is one of the few things which make Palestinians happy and proud.

In my interview with the Director of the Media Department of the Palestinian Football Association, he stated that “The recent success of the Palestinian team is the result of the national football strategy that was developed and implemented starting in 2008.” As part of it, “The association built professional football fields, organized local tournaments and leagues, trained coaches with international coaching licenses and invested in young players.”

He continued, “We are seeing the outstanding outcome of this strategy in the performance of the national team 16 years later despite the limited resources.”

However, numerous political challenges obstruct the further development of Palestinian football. The most important ones include “limiting the import of training equipment, preventing players from reaching training sites, obstructing the organization of local tournaments and the arresting and killing of players and coaches in the ongoing conflict.”

When asked about the chances of reaching the World Cup, he stated, “Palestine has a substantial chance to qualify for two reasons: The improving performance of the team and the larger number of participating teams in 2026.”

So, with a lot of hard work and a bit of good luck, Palestine stands a historical chance to participate in the World Cup for the first time. So, will football have the power to bring hope and make a difference for Palestinians amidst these hard times? We have to wait, pray and see!

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