Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Newcastle: Palestine coach Ahmed Al Hassan is determined to maintain an air of mystery and intrigue around his team as the Middle East side prepare to make their debut appearance at the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 against defending champions Japan at Newcastle Stadium on Monday. Click here for Al Hassan's flash interview
The Palestinians secured the final berth at the continental gathering when they defeated the Philippines in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives and Al Hassan plans to use the lack of information available on his team to their advantage.
“Japan don’t know anything about my team because we are new in this competition,” he said ahead of the Group D clash. “Japan don’t have much information about us, only in the AFC Challenge Cup they saw us, but that’s not enough.
“I’m sure, they know my team will fight and play with spirit against them tomorrow (Monday). There are secrets in football, but I have a strategy to show ourselves at a good level.”
The Palestinians have had to overcome significant hurdles to make the trip to Australia, with everything from security issues to players’ non-football professions impacting upon the team.
Defender Haytham Theeb has not been able to travel to Australia due to work commitments at home while the team has had to conduct all of their pre-tournament camps outside Palestine.
“All the players have had a lot of difficulties to make the selection because there are many from Gaza, from the West Bank and also outside Palestine,” said Al Hassan. “It’s difficult to gather them in the same place.
“We always have to gather outside Palestine, so this situation is different than for any other team in the world.
“There are a lot of players outside Palestine. They have no opportunity to go inside Palestine and it’s very difficult for us. We gather all the players outside and that’s a negative point for us, but we fight to always be together like a team.”
Captain Ramzi Saleh stressed that, although Palestine are inexperienced at this level, they have not turned up at the AFC Asian Cup to make up the numbers.
“We have come here to say to all the people that there’s a country called Palestine, and we will represent the Palestinian people here,” he said.
“We are so proud to be here, but many people say the team will be a tourist in this competition. We have a lot of good quality players here and we are here to fight and to reach the second round.”