Monday, December 31, 2018

Islamic Sports Club in Jaffa 1926 – 1948


Issam Khalidi

    On the eve of the Nakba (catastrophe of 1948), Jaffa was the largest Arab city in Palestine. Its Arab population (Muslims and Christians) was approximately 90,000, more than the population of both Jerusalem and Haifa. It was one of the richest cities in Palestine because of the citrus trade and the beginning of a modern manufacturing movement. In addition, it was a cultural capital and a center for Palestinian sports. Few clubs were founded in Jaffa in the 1920s among them was the Islamic Sports Club Al-Nadi al-Riyadi al-Islami by a group of young men: Abdel Rahman al-Habbab, Dr. Daoud al-Huseini, Mamdouh Nabilsi, Muhamed al-Huseini, Abdel Salam Al-Dajani and Rashad Dabagh.[1] Hasan Bawwab mentioned that in order to negate any denominational feature, this club had some Christian members such as Elias Salame, As’ad Tajja and Halim Saba. [2]

   Immediately after its founding in 1926, in coordination with the Awqaf administration ISC took Ard al-Bariyya Land of the Wild as its football field. Later, the club management purchased a new field called Mala’b al-Bassa (Al-Bassa Field). It had a capacity of 10,000 spectators. [3]
     As a reaction to the Zionist domination on the sports arena and the marginalization of the Arabs form the Palestine Football Association (established in 1928), ISC joined the Arab Palestine Sports Federation directly after its founding in 1931 and took part in its first tournament in October 1933.[4] Later, it took part in the tournaments of the Trophy of King Ghazai Dir’ Al-Melek Ghazi, organized by the PSF and Youth Congress.[5] In addition to ISC of Jaffa PSF included other clubs such as Arab Sports Club and Nadi al-Rawda  in Jerusalem, the Orthodox Club of Jaffa, the Islamic Sports Club of Haifa, the White Star, Ittihad al-Karmal, Istiqlal and the Salesian سالزيان Club of Haifa.
    In July 1935 ISC participated in the scout-athletic exhibition organized by the Palestine Sports Federation, scouts' leadership and the Youth Congress.[6] It formed a scouts' group that made good contribution to the scouting movement in Palestine. Its members were always doing their national duties by taking part in the demonstrations against the British policy; in transporting wounded to hospitals and guarding the beaches to prevent the smuggling of Jews.[7]
   Due to the consequences of the 1936 Revolt the sports activities became almost paralyzed. Some of the clubs were exposed to closure, its members were arrested. The Orthodox Club in Jaffa was confiscated and used as headquarters for the British troops. Expressing its sympathy with the Orthodox Club, the Islamic Club in Jaffa offered its supports, al-Difa’ published the letter:

    Dear Brothers, Head and Members of the Orthodox Youth Club (OYC), The Board of the Islamic Sports Clubs (ISC) in Jaffa offers its apology for the decision made by the government to take your club as a barracks for its soldiers, which could hinder the club’s activities. We had the honor to cooperate with the Orthodox Club – which enjoyed a big respect among other national clubs in Palestine. The board of our club conveyed and decided to send a letter of protest to the governor of the south province. Thus, the Islamic Club welcomes all members of the Orthodox Club; they will enjoy the same privileges as its members. The board of the ISC will offer the Orthodox Club a room for its meetings. [8]  

    Due to the 1936-39 Revolt, the activities of the (Arab) Palestine Sports Federation were suspended. Some clubs joined the Zionist-dominated Palestine Football Association and took part in its leagues. Among these teams were Shabab al-Arab (Haifa), Tirsana (Haifa), ISC (Haifa), ISC (Jaffa), Orthodox Club and Christians Club (Jerusalem), with other two Armenian teams Hoychmen of Haifa and Homentmen of Jerusalem.  
   In September 1944, the Palestine Sport Federation was re-established. Thirty-five club representatives attended the meeting which was held in the ISC in Jaffa. Later, many clubs joined PSF. Filastin reported that “due to the invitation by the Qawmi Club in Jaffa [since 1941 until 1944 the name of ISC had been changed to al-Nadi al-Qawmi the National Club] to the clubs’ officials in Palestine about the re-establishment of a general football association, we offer our gratitude to this club [ISC] for its initiatives.”[9]

       ISC became the headquarters of PSF. It met with the Mandate teams and Arab teams from neighboring Arab countries. The match between the Islamic Sports Club and the Aleppo team is one of the first matches that took place with the Arab teams after the re-establishment of PSF. The match was attended by five thousand spectators. It ended with 4:3 in favor for ISC.
  The first championship in football was held in 1945 – 1946. ISC met with the Orthodox Club of Jerusalem and won the Palestine Cup. Thirteen teams participated in the 1946-1947 tournament. The final match was held in Haifa on June 28, 1947 where Shabab al-Arab the Arab Youth of Haifa defeated the Islamic Club of Jaffa five to one.
     PSF divided Palestine into six regions: Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, Nablus, Gaza and Galilee. Each region had its own selected team. Jaffa selected team included players from ISC, Orthodox SC and ISC of Ramla. ISC of Jaffa included the players: Salah Haj Mir, Abdel-Ghani al-Habbab, Hamoudah Qabuq, Fakhri Qara Nooh and Mustafa Da’da’.

    ISC included famous boxers like Adib al-Desouqi, who started his career in the club before moving to the Olympic Institute, a boxing club he Dr. Haqqi Mazin had established. It is also known that Dr. Mazin was a boxing coach at the ISC. The club also included boxers such as Ibrahim Al-Dabbagh, Abdul Hadi Al-Sadr, Mohammed Al Masri, Abdul Raouf Al-Maghrabi, Fakhri Tranous, Abdulmutallab Al-Jamal, Mohammed Samara, Mohammed Al-Sakha, Ibrahim Al-Sharqawi, Sidqi Sarhan and Mustafa al-Habbab.[10]

   In 1944, ISC founded the Al-Najdah Organization. Khairuddin Abul-Jibin notes in his book (Qissat Hayati fi Filastin and Kuwait My Life in Palestine and Kuwait) that this organization was founded in Jaffa in 1944. It was the first Arab paramilitary organization in Palestine– similar to the Lebanese Najada. It came as a result of the tight links between the athletic-youth movement and the national movement, and as a reaction to the Zionist dangers in Palestine. PSF took a decision to support Al-Najada. Its spread among the clubs in Palestine was promoted by the PSF. The name of Al-Najada was written on the membership card of the PSF. On the first of Eid al-Fitr in 1944, the first Al-Najada exhibition was held in Jaffa. The members toured the streets of the city for two hours; they were dressed in semi-military uniform and were welcomed by the public.

  During the year of Nakba, many sacrifices were made by ISC’s members, few of its members were killed while defending their land. The player Zaki al-Darhali was killed by an explosive device planted by the Zionist terrorists in al-Sarai building in Jaffa. Most of the members were displaced and dispersed, among them those who moved to Jordan, West Bank, Sector Gaza, Lebanon and Gulf States. Abdel Rahman al-Habbab left to Jordan, and became the President of the JFA.

   The club still exists to this day, but in different and restricted circumstances. Wearing the kufiyye, and flying the club’s flags, the club's scouts team marches the streets of Jaffa celebrating Islamic holidays.


[1] Abdel Rahman al-Habbab was a football player, after the re-establishment of the Arab Palestine Sports Federation APSF in 1944 he became its Secretary. Dr. Daoud al-Huseini took part in establishing the APSF in 1931 and elected its secretary.
[2] Hasan al-Bawab, Mayso’at Yafa al-Jamila [Fine Jaffa Encyclopedia] Vol. II (Beirut: 2003) p. 1179-1189.
[3] Ibid,
[4] Issam Khalidi, “Sports and Aspirations: Football in Palestine 1900-948,” Jerusalem Quarterly 58, (2014), 74-89
[5] Issam Khalidi, Sports and Aspirations.
[6] The Arab Palestinian Youth Congress (Mu’tamar al-Shabab al- ‘Arabi al-Filastini) was established in Jerusalem in 1931. It was active in youth, scouts, sports and political activities, and was famous for its nationalistic trends. It had its first conference in 1932, the second in 1935. See ‘Isaal- Sifri. Filastin al-‘Arabiyya bayn al-Intidab wal-Sahyuniyya [Arab Palestine between the Mandate and Zionism] (Jaffa: Maktabat Filastinal-Jadida, 1937), 194–201.
[7] Issa al-Sifri, Filastin bayn al-Intidabwa al-Sahyuniyya [Palestine between the Mandate and Zionism] (Jaffa: Maktabat Filastin al-Jadida,1937), 
[8] Al-Difa, 25 October 1936.
[9] Filastin, 5 April 1944.
[10] Issam Khalidi, Boxing in Palestine:

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