Hilal Al-Quds, champions of Palestine in the past two seasons, has completed a dream AFC Cup playoff round with two victories over Al-Nassr from Oman, with the decisive one taking place earlier this week.
The Jerusalem Lions have arrived to the second leg in Salalah with a 2-1 lead from the first match in Al-Ram. The two young guns, Oday Dabagh & Mousa Firawi, has led the team for a 2-1 victory in one of the best displays of Hilal in Asian competitions. Everything was ready for the second leg in Oman.
As in every travel of a Palestinian team abroad, the road was filled with problems & obstacles. Coach Khader Obeid hasn’t joined the delegation as he couldn’t get permission a stay away from his post as a school teacher in East Jerusalem. Player Samer Jundi was prohibited from travelling with the team by the Israeli authorities, according to sources. A comment from COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) is yet to arrive.
In Salalah, it was a harder match, but it was Dabagh again, who managed to score in the crucial 74th minute, in a solo run of half of the pitch in order to hand the Palestinian champion their ticket to the AFC Cup group stage, for the first time in the club’s history. After a two year hiatus, Palestinian football has a representative in Asia’ second competition, as Hilal is the third Palestinian team to qualify for this stage.
Hilal Al-Quds was founded in 1972, as one of the first organised multi-sport clubs in Palestine. Since its foundation the club has offered an outlet to develop the city’s young population through sports, art and culture. The first team play their home games at Faisal Husseini Stadium in Al Ram, which is currently under renovation.
In total, since the beginning of the professional era, the club have won three Championship titles, two Cup titles, four West Bank Super Cups and one League Cup title. Hilal Al Quds are an honorable member of the ‘Fab 5’ of Palestinian football; The only five clubs to have never been relegated from the top division.
With a multi-sport complex, the most titles in Palestine in the past decade, the best local talents, foreign-born Palestinians and a successful coach, Hilal Al Quds are a mega club on the local level.
In recent years, the progress of Palestinian football has made headlines worldwide. The senior national team qualified to the 2015 & 2019 AFC Asian Cups and climbed up to 75th in the FIFA Rankings, their highest ever. The U23 team reached the knockout stage at the ongoing 2018 AFC U23 Championship, in their maiden appearance in the tournament, with Hilal’s star, Dabagh, attracting world wide attention.
Now it may just be time for Palestinian clubs to stamp their mark on AFC competitions too, and there is no club more suited to do so, than Hilal Al Quds.
In Group A, Hilal will meet few the most notable clubs in the Levant: Al-Jaish - champions of Syria, Nejmeh - Lebanon’s biggest club & no other than AL-Wehdat - the Palestinian club from Jordan. As for the Syrian & Lebanese teams, it will be unlikely to visit the renovated ground of Faisal Husseini Stadium, due to the diplomatic situation between both countries and Israel. All the matches between Hilal and the two are tipped to take place in Bahrain.
Nevertheless, the Green Hulks from Amman will arrive in what will become a truly festive event of Palestinian football & identity.
Hilal Al-Quds have made history, but now the real hard work begins, as they will try and achieve some more landmarks from the Jerusalem football scenario.