The forthcoming FIFA Rankings will mark a historical moment in Middle Eastern football history, with two of the regions most collided entities - Israel & Palestine.
After years of competing in UEFA and not in the AFC due to hostile relations from Muslim and Asian countries, Israel is now facing severe consequences of underachieving. Palestine national team, on the other hand, is tipped to achieve its highest ranking ever, conquering the 82nd spot. That's a great achievement, but what is interesting is that it would be the first time ever for the Palestinian team to toppled its Israeli counterpart, who will be ranked in their worst ever FIFA ranking, the 98th spot.
These rankings don’t exactly show the true football ability of each national team, but reflects their current form and achievements in international matches. Israel’s horrific 2018 World Cup qualifications campaign has a vast impact on the country’s lowest ever spot, making them the 3rd most ’worst movers’ in the rankings, as they drop 16 spots down, just a bit before Chad and Laos, who have fallen 19 and 22 respectively. On the same time, Palestine’s tremendous 2018 World Cup & 2019 Asian Cup qualifications campaigns has boosted the Fida’i to go up in the table. Together with Senegal, that would be ranked 23, Luxembourg (83) and Chinese Taipei (135), the Palestinians has mark their best ever ranking since joining FIFA in 1998.
If that's not enough - Palestine is currently holding one of the world's best winning streaks in competitive games. While Germany and Spain won 7 each, Palestine is right behind them with 6, exactly like Portugal. Of course, there is no reason to compare the level of opponents each team has played against, or the level of football, but one cannot neglect the progress the tiny football nation has done in recent years.
Israel’s nightmare ranking isn’t finishing in a 15 places gap between them and their neighbors from Gaza & the West Bank, but also expanding to the northern border: Lebanon will enjoy their best rank in 18 years, likely to be suited 86th, while Syria, who already went through the Israelis already in the past rankings will continue to hold the 77th spot. Iraq, another major Middle Eastern team & conutry, will be ranked 79th. Slowly but carefully, Israel, who in 2008 was ranked 15th (!) in the world, has lost its position to other emerging players in world football, who apparently come from their own neighborhood - the Middle East.
Football have arrived Israel/Palestine in the beginning of the 20th century (then named Mandatory Palestine) , with both populations enjoying developing it, in this level or another, as a main sportive and social activity. At the start, the national team was made by Jewish, Arab and British players, but as soon as the conflict emerged the sides have founded their own associations and teams, playing separately. While Israel used to take an active part in the Asian competitions until the end of the 1970’s (winning Asian Cup in 1964 and playing the 1970 World Cup), Muslim countries have refused to play with them regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then, Israel moved to the Oceania Confederation to compete against Australia and New Zealand and in 1992, they joined UEFA – the European Association – and since then are competing with world football giants, as Spain, Italy, France, etc. Despite enjoying great facilities, private owenrships, access to UEFA's competition and high salaries the local league, Israeli football is facing one of its toughest hours at the moment.
On the other side, Palestine has been a mediocre side by professional means until not long ago. Becoming a member of FIFA only in 1998, Palestine has its huge progress in the past decade since Jibril Rajoub’s major investment in the facilities and foundations of local football. After first participation in the Asian Cup in 2015, Palestine completed a repeat and will play the 2019 edition of the tournament in the UAE. Locally, the Palestinian League is far behind Israel's in terms of sources, conditions and professional structure, but in terms of natural talent, Palestinian football offers a massive variety of players.
As the two sides that are part of the world’s most famous conflict, Israel and Palestine face an interesting benchmark in their football histories in the forthcoming FIFA Rankings. It doesn't necessarily so says Palestine is the stronger team between the two, but its definitely highlights who's on the roll, and who's rolling down.
Be sure to follow the action this week when the FIFA Rankings get published, as the conflict, and football, won’t be gone away any time soon.