Monday, November 9, 2009

PALESTINE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION: THE NEED TO STREAMLINE HISTORY

By ISSAM KHALIDI
    I have recently discovered some misinformation on some Palestinian websites (in Arabic and English) about the Palestine Football Association (PFA), which represents Palestine in the Arabic and International arena. I am not sure of the source of this misinformation, but it reflects the lack of knowledge and awareness of specific historical issues. These websites propagate  wrong information, making it an accepted fact and distorting an important part of  Palestinian sports movement's history.


The website of the Palestine Football Association, PFA, mentions that PFA was founded in 1928 in Jerusalem and joined FIFA in 1929; it participated in the world cup qualifiers in 1934 which were held in Italy. Palestine was in the qualifiers for the World Cup in 1938, making it the first Arab-Asian team to participate in the world cup qualifications, though many are unaware of that, due to the failures which the Palestine football team suffered.[1]

What is astonishing is that the PFA entry on Wikipedia in English. Has been entered by individuals, and not the PFA, opening the door for much misinformation.

Consider the most important statement on Wikipedia: “The PFA was formed in 1928. Participation in the qualifiers for the 1934 World Cup gave Palestine (or Palestine/Eretz Israel as the team was known) the distinction of being the first Asian team in any stage of the World Cup. Subsequent to the establishment of Israel in 1948, the PFA became the Israel Football Association. Both the Israel Football Association and the PFA count the 5 international matches played by Palestine/Eretz Israel between 1934-1940 in their record”.[2]

  Wikipedia in Arabic does not mention any historical fact before 1948, except in two lines of information about the current PFA: established in 1962; it joined FIFA in 1998 and joined the Asian Football Federation in 1998.[3]

The questions that present themselves here are: Are we intentionally forbidden to record our own history as it was? Have we become unable to write our own history? Do we have to record our history according to Israel’s whims and its desire to distort our history? In fact, The Palestinian Football Association is an extension of the Palestinian Sports Federation which was founded in April 1931, and then re-established in September of 1944. It is not an extension of the Palestinian Football Association which was founded in 1928 - which the Federation mentions today. There is no justification for recognizing the Palestinian Football Association as a cornerstone of the current Palestinian Football Association.

This information must not be submitted as if it is historical fact, because the Zionist goal in founding this Association was not for the sake of Arab-Jewish cooperation; rather, it was for the sake to join the International Federation (FIFA) and to stand alone with the sports movement. No one ignores that Arab sports lag behind Jewish sports, which based on immigrants came from industrial developed societies; who brought with them the culture of sports.

In 1924, the leadership of the Jewish Maccabi Athletic Organization attempted to gain membership in the International Amateur Athletic Federation. This initiative ended in failure, as it was determined that Maccabi did not represent Arab, British and Jewish sportsmen in Palestine equally. However, this unsuccessful attempt did not discourage Maccabi leader Josef Yekutieli, who in the early 1925 attempted to gain Maccabi membership in the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Yekutieli decided to employ a different tactic this time -- he first established the Palestine Football Association.[4]

According to FIFA rules, only associations representing states could be accepted as members. Thus, Maccabi officials were compelled to invite not only their Zionist political adversary, ha-Po’el, but also Arab teams to join the Palestinian Football Association (PFA). Therefore, in addition to the fourteen Zionist representatives that participated in the first meeting of the new soccer-association directorate, one Arab delegate took part—a member of the Nusseibeh family representing the Arab Sports Club of Jerusalem. However, despite his involvement in this first session, Nusseibeh’s name never again appeared in the directorate’s protocol. Nevertheless, during the first years of the PFA, Arab teams participated in the games of the Association. A report submitted to FIFA in 1929 describes three soccer divisions in Palestine: ten teams in the first, twenty in the second (five of them Arab), and thirty-nine in the third (six of them Arab).[5]

The Arabs had entered this Association in good faith, their goal was to cooperate with the Jews. There was no ill will for standing alone with it. It is true that this Association was formed by the Arabs, Jews, and the British; however, studies and historical facts indicate that the motivation behind its formation was a purely Zionist goal. Its exploitation by the Zionist athletic leadership and the continued marginalization of the Arabs was among the Zionist goals, especially after joining FIFA in June 1929; therefore, the Palestinians announced their dissatisfaction with the Zionist practices in seizing this Association.



The Association’s joining FIFA was a valuable opportunity for the sake of making the Jewish identity prominent and representing Palestine on the international level. With this the Jews, with the cooperation and support of the British side, were able to represent “Palestine” on the international level in the World Cup in both 1934 and 1938. The reader must be made aware that Arab Palestine didn’t compete with Egypt in 1934; rather, it was the Zionists who competed with Egypt and who wanted to represent Palestine and make it appear “Jewish” in front of the world. 
   

The Palestinian football team wasn’t (as was mentioned in the website’s history) the first Arab-Asian team to participate in the World Cup Qualifiers in 1938, rather it was this “Jewish” team which represented Palestine, and Arab Palestine had no relation to this team. There is no need for the current Palestinian Football Association to mention that “this is a fact of which many are unaware,” as this is a piece of misinformation which is accepted by many of those unaware of our history of sports movement.

   Resulting from the gross transgressions by the Jews in Palestine Football Association and also resulting from the 1929 Revolt, many of the sporting leaders established the Arabic Palestinian Sports Federation, PSF, in April 1931, which immediately called for a boycott of Zionist teams and athletes. One of the achievements of this PSF was the organization of the tournament of The Shield of the Youth Conference [Dir’ Mu’utamar al Shabab]. As a reaction to the Maccabiah Festivals in 1932 and 1935, this Federation in cooperation with the Youth Conference held the Great Scouts Athletic Festival in July 1935. Because of the 1936 revolt, the activities of the PSF were hindered, and PSF totally paralyzed at the end of the thirties. Few of its members joined the Jewish-dominated PFA.

Later, in 1943, they withdrew their membership when many clubs formed local federations in their cities, which constituted the nuclei of the re-established Palestine Sports Federation in September 1944. The period 1944-1947 is considered the most shining and productive for the Palestinian sports movement. It was characterized by organizational, social and national traits. The PSF divided Palestine into six regions: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Nablus, Gaza and Galilee. It established branch committees for soccer, (boxing, wrestling, weight lifting, all in one committee), basketball, track and field, and table tennis. The PSF struggled to join FIFA, but its pursuit was in vain because FIFA was influenced by the Zionist lobby and biased toward the Palestine Football Association.

Had the Palestinian people not been suffered by the 1948 Nakba, the period 1944-1947 could have constituted a strong foundation for current Palestinian sports.




[1] http://www.pfa.ps/default.aspx

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_Football_Federation

[3] http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki

[4] Kaufman, Haim. Jewish Sports in the Diaspora, Yishuv, and Israel: Between Nationalism and Politics Israel Studies - Volume 10, Number 2, Summer 2005, pp. 147-167

[5] Tamir, Sorek. Palestinian Nationalism has left the field: A Shortened History of Arab Soccer in Israel. International Journal of Middle East Studies – 35,(2003).

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