Israeli Border Security forces again disrupt the Palestinian Cup

Israeli Border Security forces again disrupt the Palestinian Cup

For the third year running this competition has been marred by Israeli obstruction.   For the first leg ten West Bank players for Ahli Al-Khabeel were not allowed to enter Gaza and the team was obliged to move its goalkeeper to centre forward.  For the second leg ten of the twenty five strong Gazan squad from Shabab Rafah were banned from entry to the West Bank.  So a team could be assembled – but not ideally as both reserve goalkeepers were banned.

The Palestinian FA has asked FIFA to take action to end such controversial violations.  While COGAT insists that the movements were restricted for “security reasons”, last year those reasons disappeared when the Palestinian FA  complained to FIFA; clearly the reasons were not substantial.

The  Cup was won  by Shabab Rafah which beat Ahli Al-Kahaleel (Hebron) 2-0 .  All the goals were scored in the first leg match in Gaza on 1 August 2017.  The second leg was played on  4 August 2017.

Palestinian Football’s website reported for the first leg:

Shabab Rafah emerged victorious today on the pitch of Yarmouk Stadium in the Palestine Cup first leg.

Ahli Al-Khaleel were faced with serious personnel challenges with several of their key players being denied entry into Gaza.

New signings Musab Battat, Sameh Maraaba, and Mohammed Maraaba did not make the trip alongside mainstay Shadi Shaban and a litany of other players.

After a scoreless first half, Shabab Rafah found the opener vis-a-vis the penalty spot. Substitute Said Al-Sobakhi duly converting.  Ahli Al-Khaleel’s version of an attacking change saw Naim Abu Aker come on for CB Fadi Dweik. Abu Aker- Palestine’s Olympic team goalkeeper took the gloves from Azmi Shweiki- who was then deployed as a forward.

Despite a period of sustained possession- Ahli Al-Khaleel could not find an equalizer with Mahmoud Wadi (back with the side temporarily) and goalkeeper-turned-forward Azmi Shweiki coming closest.  In the 86th minute Mohammed Abu Dan finished off a swift Rafah counter to make the score 2-0.
In the dying embers of the game, Ahli Al-Khaleel were reduced to ten men with Musab Abu Salem receiving a second yellow.

Ahli Al-Khaleel have won the past two cup competitions against Ittihad Shajaeya and Ittihad Khan Younes respectively. On both occasions the Hebron side came back from Gaza with at least a draw in the first leg.

MEMO reported for the first leg (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170803-israel-prevents-football-players-from-leaving-gaza/)

Israeli occupation authorities on Wednesday prevented nine players of a Palestinian football club from leaving the Gaza Strip to participate in the final match of the Palestinian Cup in the Israeli occupied West Bank.

The Rafah Youngsters team is slated to play Hebron-based team, Ahly al-Khalil on Friday.

Palestinian Youth and Sports Supreme Council member, Abdussalam Haniyye, wrote on his Facebook page that the players were denied exit from the Gaza Strip.

Haniyye asked FIFA, the international football governing body, to take action to end the controversial violations.

Last year’s Palestinian cup final was delayed after six players from a Gaza team were refused permission to travel. The decision was later reversed after a FIFA complaint to Israeli authorities.

The Daily Mail reported also on the second leg: (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-4761992/Football-Gaza-team-wins-Palestine-Cup-despite-Israeli-restrictions.html).

Shabaab of Rafah became the first Gazan team to win football’s Palestine Cup in more than a decade Friday, despite Israeli restrictions keeping 10 of its players off the pitch.  Rafah and Ahly al-Khalil from the southern West Bank city of Hebron which hosted the game ended the second leg nil-nil, but Rafah’s 2-0 first leg lead meant it took the title.  The Gazan club had to field a weakened side, with only 15 of its 25 members of the playing squad given Israeli permits to travel.

Rafah director Khaled Kweik told AFP it was the first time the team had ever won the cup, calling it a “historic” victory.  “We were harassed as we entered the West Bank and the Israelis banned 10 players from entering,” he said after the final whistle.  “But the rest of the players were able to protect the draw and take the title.”

The West Bank and Gaza are separated by Israel, and Palestinians looking to travel between the two must apply for Israeli permits. Ahly won the cup in 2015 and 2016, but its home advantage in this year’s second leg was not enough to see it overturn the two-goal deficit.  The annual fixture pits the winners of separate cup competitions in Gaza and the West Bank over a two-leg final — one in each of the Palestinian territories.  The cup did not take place for 15 years largely over problems with Israeli permits, but resumed in 2015 after world football body FIFA intervened.

On Thursday, Shabaab announced that 10 of their players had been prevented from entering Israel through the Erez border crossing with Gaza.

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, said the ban was for “security reasons” compounded by a late submission of paperwork.

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