Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Abdel Rahman al-Habbab … A Long Journey of Devotion in Sports


Issam Khalidi

    Talking about history of Palestine sports, one has to mention the name of this inimitable personal who dedicated a large part of his life for the progress and growth of sports in Palestine. Born in 1908, Habbab, attended schools in Jaffa. After his graduation he taught in different schools in Jaffa, Ramla and Beersabi’ (1928 – 1935). In 1926, he joined and played football for the Islamic Sport Club in Jaffa (established 1926). In 1927, he participated in creating scouts teams in Jaffa. In 1936, he took part in founding the National Guards in Jaffa.

     Sport in Palestine was not isolated from political conditions in Palestine. Since the 1920’s, the Jews sought to use sports to achieve their dreams in Palestine. They dominated the so-called ‘Palestine Football Association’ after its affiliation with the International Football Association FIFA in 1929. This prompted the Palestinians to established Palestine Sports Federation PSF in 1931. Because of the consequences resulted from the 1936 Revolt, its activities were suspended in 1938-1939. However, in 1944, Habbab and his colleagues leaders of the sports movements in Palestine called for re-establishing PSF. The period 1944-1948 was the golden era in the history of sports before 1948. The sports movement witnessed a remarkable leap. PSF found regional and branch committees; it organized tournaments and competitions for all sports such as football, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, track and field and table tennis. Beside the organizational characteristic, sports movement distinguished with social and national-ideological traits.

     Abd al-Rahman al-Habbab was the secretary of the PSF, at the same time he was a member the Jaffa regional committee; he was also a member of the track and field committee. A former football player with the Islamic Club of Jaffa, Habbab continued his efforts to lead this club which achieved positive results in the fields of football and boxing.

   Habbab and his colleagues sought to affiliate PSF with  FIFA. The main obstacle it faced was the Zionist-dominated PFA which represented Palestine in this international association. In 1946, PSF submitted its application to FIFA. Al-Habbab, was supposed to attend a meeting for FIFA in Luxemburg on August 27, 1946. He was planning to discuss and explain the Palestinian point of view regarding the application of the PSF in FIFA.  Unfortunately, FIFA rejected his attendance for unknown reasons.[i]  It was very clear that FIFA was dominated by colonial members who supported the Zionist case. Also, the Arab countries suffered the lack of influence; they were unable to put pressures on FIFA in order to accept the application of PSF.   

   However, Abd Arrahman al-Habbab decided to travel to Egypt in July 1946, where he met with the Chief of the Arab League and Haidar Pasha, the head of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA).  Both expressed their sympathy with the PSF and denounced FIFA’s rejection for not allowing the Palestinian secretary to attend its meeting.  After consulting with the council of the Arab League, they decided to send a telegram to FIFA asking for the registration of the PSF.  This telegram was followed with a detailed letter by al-Habbab explaining the stance of the Arab football associations toward the PSF.  It stated that those associations were planning to form a United Arab Association, and that said Arab associations are in full support of the Arab teams in Palestine. [ii]

   In August, Mr. Habbab received a letter from the secretary of FIFA informing him that, in accordance with the request of the Egyptian and Lebanese football associations, FIFA discussed the issue of registering the PSF in FIFA.  FIFA decided to form a special committee for reviewing this application from all aspects, so the committee could best decide its recommendation.  The PSF offered its gratitude to the Egyptian FA and the Lebanese FA for their efforts.[iii] Unfortunately, things went in another direction when, in just few days, FIFA decided to reject this application. However, this did not stop the desire of Habbab and his colleagues. In 1951 they submitted another application to FIFA and got negative response with the same excuses. In the same year, the functions and authorities of al-Habbab who was PSF's General Secretary have been transformed to Ahmad Z. Afifi.

    Later, Al-Habbab became the secretary of the Jordanian Football Association, and the secretary of the Jordanian Olympic Committee. He was the head of the Jordanian delegation to Pan Arab Games in 1957 and 1961.

   Habbab died  in Amman in 1995, leaving behind tens of achievements and successes.

[i] Difa’ July 11, 1946
[ii]  Difa July 25, 1946
[iii] Filastin August 20, 1946

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