The Truth behind the Palestine’s 1934 World Cup team….
On March 16, 1934 eleven players of the Palestine national side walked out onto the pitch for a World Cup Qualifier against Egypt at the British Army Ground in Cairo. For one reason or other all of Palestine’s players, coaching staff and officials were Jewish immigrants, non-of them were Arabs who made up more than 75% of the Palestinian population, nor had any of them been born in Palestine. So it begs the questions how could a team full of Jewish immigrants represent the nation of Palestine?. The answer comes from the history behind the foundation of the Palestine Football Association which was established in 1928 – it all started with the Maccabi sports organisation founded by the Zionist movement – who wanted to form a football association affiliated with the football governing body FIFA. The officials of the club saw the foundation and its integration into the world football community of FIFA as an essential part of the birth of the Zionist nation and a way of enforcing their claim for their Jewish homeland through the legitimacy of FIFA and their members. However under governing rules, only an association representing a nation could be accepted as FIFA members, so Maccabi officials were forced to invite Arab clubs into the Palestinian Football Association (PFA). The move worked and the PFA joined FIFA in 1929, however the PFA was not much of a democracy; with the Arab population of Palestine being nearly 75%, out of 15 representatives on the PFA board only one was an Arab, the rest were all Jews from Zionist clubs Maccabi and Hapoel. And this was on the first meeting of the new association, the official Mr.Nusseibeh from the Islamic Sports Club of Jerusalem never appeared again after that. It became an all-exclusive Zionist club. The PFA Football League was made up of 69 teams placed into three divisions, of all the teams only 11 were Arab. The PFA did claim that it represented all of Palestine, however Zionist officials and players dominated on all levels. As a result the so called Palestine National Team that participated in international games where the Zionist anthem “Ha-Tikva” was played out before a game, was boycotted by Arab, Armenian and Christian Palestinians alike – though they would never had a chance of selection with a Zionist coach, appointed by an all-Zionist board of the PFA.
It took nearly five years of struggle before the Arab sports representatives had enough of being classed as second class citizens in their own country, and saw that they were never going to be represented in the ‘Zionist’ PFA, and formed it’s own association, the General Palestinian Sports Association (PSA), which represented all Palestinians, mostly Arabs but also minorities such as Armenians and Christians. However it did not last long, and a year after a large sports competition was organised in Jaffa with over 5,000 athletes - the 1936 Arab rebellion against the British led to the destruction of the PSA. Having no league and matches led a few Arab football teams to re-join the Jewish PFA in 1941, but left for the final time two years later. On July 22, 1944, though the initiative of Al-Ahly Sports Club of Jaffa who invited Arab clubs to join them in establishing a new organisation– a breakaway association was formed once again from representatives of 21 clubs under the name of the General Palestinian Sports Association (PSA), all members formally agreed that the association should include all Arabs, disregard of their nationality, and with the PFA and PSA at loggerheads, the PSA banned participation of Jewish athletes in their competitions. The PSA Football League was made up of six regions: Jerusalem (Al-Quds), Jaffa, Haifa, Gaza, Nablus, and the Galilee (Al-Jalil), and included 45 clubs all over the country, which later increased to 65, two years later. Champions of each region advanced to the Palestine Championship, and on June 3, 1945 in Jaffa in front of over 10,000 spectators - finalists Islamic Sports Club of Jaffa took on Al-Ittihad Orthodox of Jerusalem, and beat them 2-0 to claim the sliver shield donated by the Arab National Bank.
With the rapid growth of the PSA in Palestine – the officials began to create international relations with neighbouring nations, with PSA athletes participating in countries such as Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Iran. However the PSA’s own Palestine national team could not take part in international competitions between other national teams because the PFA, the official representatives of Palestine on the FIFA governing board, denied national teams to play against the PSA’s Palestinian national team – FIFA would have been within the rules to ban nations who played against them. The PFA had played 5 international games between 1934 and 1940 including matches against Egypt and Lebanon; however after the organisation’s true colours were shown to the neighbouring countries; no one wanted to take part in competitions with them. On March 15, 1945, the popular Palestinian newspaper Filastin wrote:
“The Palestinian Football Association, which is not Arab, and is recognized internationally and representing us against our will. This association was founded and represented Palestine internationally while the game among the Arabs was still in its formative stage. Twelve members managed this association. None of them are Arab, it is located in Tel Aviv, and until this day it still represents Palestine. It will be a great injustice if this association continues to represent Arab Palestine internationally when our games and our association are already organised and among our youth there are stronger, better and more professional athletes than them. The Arab teams cannot visit Palestine and play with us if this illegal association refuses to let them. Egypt is also forced to comply with this if it wishes to keep the international order and laws that are followed by other countries.”.
In 1946, with the help and support of the national FA’s of Egypt, and Lebanon– the PSA made an official proposal to FIFA to be accepted as a member, which was turned down. Months before FIFA’s decision – the PFA seeing that they could lose international legitimacy and at worst be banned from FIFA invited the Arab teams to the PFA. However the PSA all with all the other Arab teams gave a letter of refusal, declaring that they would not join them. In the hope of finding a solution, FIFA jointly headed a conference of the regions Arab FAs, but nothing was solved as the Arab associations protested FIFA’s decision and demanded it reconsider. A year on, FIFA’s executive committee proposed that a ‘new’ neutral association be formed in Palestine during the next conference, an association headed by people who were not Jewish nor Arab. However when the conference took place, battles in Palestine were already taking place and no decision on the matter were made, and months later the 1948 war ended any hopes of the PSA being affiliated into FIFA allowing Palestine to be truly represented. Talented PSA players like Fawzi Al-Shanti, Michel Al-Taweel, George Rashmawi and the great Jaber Al-Zarqa, all never got to represent Palestine, after the Palestinian Diaspora.
Last edited by JAMESB; April 3rd, 2005 at 23:17.