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Thread: [STORY] The Palestinian Predicament (Red9)

  1. #1

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    [STORY] The Palestinian Predicament (Red9)

    The Palestinian Predicament



    Technical Information:

    Database: March 2009 Update (non-Tapani)
    DB size: Maximum
    League: Turkish
    Background picture to be used in CM screenshots - The Dead Sea in Palestine/Jordan
    Font used - Negotiate Free
    I have added the Palestinian players to the database using the information on Wikipedia (I later found a much better site but it was too late). I've also added a few more players to make up the numbers.
    I gave some of the new players -1 PA (to keep things random) which has meant that in the game the average PA of my players is just over 100.
    Palestine now have roughly the same squad strength as Lebanon and Kuwait. They are still way behind countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Iran and their biggest rivals Israel.
    Last edited by Patinoz; 05-03-12 at 04:32 PM.

  2. #2

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    Chapter One - Bellericay to Bethlehem

    Part I



    You don't know what you're doing! You don't know what you're doing!
    Out with the manager! Out with the manager!

    Chants from the Billericay fans at our latest home defeat to Manchester City on the last day of the 2000/01 season.

    Football fans can be so fickle at times. They very quickly forget that less than 15 years ago they were playing in the Ryman Football League against the likes of Canvey Island and Tooting. Now that the team has finished 13th in the Premiership they suddenly want me out of the door. Admittedly, this hasn't been a great season for us - we did finish 8th last season - but in my opinion I managed to do the best I could with no money and an ageing squad. Most of the team has been together for more than 4 seasons now, which has meant that Billericay have been playing in the Premiership for two years with mainly Coca Cola League One players. I even have three players in the current squad who I picked for my first game in charge against Boreham Wood all those years ago. Now I know what Alan Curbishley felt like after the Charlton fans turned on him – and look where they are now!

    When I woke up the next morning I had decided that enough was enough. I had taken Billericay as far as I could and I deserved a short break from the game. I had already hinted to the chairman at the beginning of the season that this may well be my last so he shouldn't be in for too much of a shock. I drove along Blunts Wall Road and turned into the stadium car park for the last time. I handed in my resignation to the chairman Mr Kan Dunothing who understood my position and was sympathetic to my situation. 'I'll miss you Michael,' he said, with what looked like a tear in the corner of his eye. He managed to say that he was sad to see me go but understood that it was better for me to leave and maybe go somewhere where I was appreciated more. 'I hope that whoever you bring in after me does great things for this great club,' I said. He nodded, then shook my hand, wished me the best of luck and saw me out the door.

    As I walked down the long, blue, carpeted corridor towards the exit I relived in my mind some of the highs of my time at Billericay - successive promotions from the Ryman League to League Two, a record points tally to reach League 1 a few years later, an undefeated league campaign in the Championship, and the clubs first major trophy when we won the FA Cup two seasons ago. Of course there were some lows like . . . er, OK there weren't that many lows but it wasn't an easy ride. The club had been crippled by debt and was only saved at the last minute a few years ago. This had an impact on the players I could bring to the club and our expenditure had to be kept very low to appease the debtors.

    It was only befitting that I said goodbye to our tea-lady, Brenda, in person – she was the first person I met when I first arrived at the stadium almost 16 years ago and now, at the age of 76 she hardly looked any different. She was a short, round, cuddly figure with silver curly hair – the sort of grandma everyone would want

    As I drove out of the car park for the last time, I thought to myself that I had indeed done brilliantly with the club. It was not as well as some of the other achievements in my career but nonetheless I was elated at what I had achieved and now I was saying goodbye to it all. I glanced into the rear-view mirror of my car and watched as the stadium I called my second home blended into the scenery behind me for the last time.
    Last edited by Patinoz; 05-03-12 at 04:37 PM.

  3. #3

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    Chapter One - Bellericay to Bethlehem

    Part II





    It's a great feeling waking up in the morning with nothing to worry about other than how you're going to keep yourself occupied for the rest of the day. It had been two weeks since I resigned as manager of Billericay and the internet forums were filled with fans discussing my resignation. Some of them wanted to know why I had left, but inside, I'm sure they all realised that I had done everything I could at the club.


    Spoiler!



    I was quite honoured by the way that some fans even mentioned my name alongside that of Moyes and Allardyce. One even went as far as saying that I could have done better than Sir Alex had I been at a 'big' club. A little far-fetched I think but nice that I'm regarded that highly.
    Anyway, I had decided that I'd take the family on a well deserved holiday.

    The suggestions were flying in from all angles as we sat for breakfast that morning:
    'I wanna go to Egypt and see the pyramids dad.'
    'I think we should go to Indonesia. It sounds exotic.'
    'Wouldn't somewhere closer to home be more appropriate – like Dover or somewhere in Scotland maybe?'


    I was just an innocent bystander at this point, so I decided to offer my two pence worth, 'How about somewhere in the Middle-East?' I said to the family. 'We're always talking about how it would be great to be able to travel there. Somewhere in Jordan, maybe, or how about Syria?'.

    'Erm . . .'
    'I suppose that would be something exciting and different'
    'I'm up for it dad.'


    And it was as simple as that. Two weeks later we arrived at out hotel rooms in Bethlehem, Palestine. The hotel was great, the weather was amazing, the food was fabulous, the people were fantastic – all in all, it was turning out to be a great holiday.

    A week into the holiday, as I was relaxing in the warm sun on the balcony of my hotel room, surrounded by the smell of sand and summer, the phone rang.

    'Who is it?' I asked my wife who had already answered the phone.
    'It's for you,' she replied. 'Someone from the FA I think - I can't quite make out what he's saying.'

    The FA? What would they want from me whilst I was on holiday?
    'Hello, Michael CM speaking,' I said, expecting Trevor Brooking on the other side of the phone line.
    'Khow you do sir?', he said a deep voice. It definitely was not Brooking. The accent was more Middle Eastern. 'My name is Mustafa Al-footy and I rebresent the Balestinian FA.'
    'Balestinian FA?' I asked. 'You mean the Palestinian FA?'
    'Yes sorry, I can not pronounce letter b. We don't khave it in our language. We use b instead.'
    'O...k...,' this could be difficult I thought. 'Go on. I'm listening.
    'We khave kheard that you resigned from your bost at Billericay and are available. We would like to sign you ub on a bart-time contract.'
    'For which club?' I frantically tried to remember the name of any Palestinian club that I knew. 'Gaza FC?'
    'Gaza FC? Ha Ha Ha,' he laughed. 'I'm beginning to like you already Sir. No no, they're too small. I'm talking about the Balestinian national team.'
    'Oh, I see,' but he continued.
    'We khave been watching you for many, many years now. We were hobing to sign you when you combleted the four cubs at Forkee.'
    'Forkee?' I was puzzled. Then I remembered. 'You mean Torquay?' I had taken Torquay from League 2 to the Premiership and eventually won the quadruple with them before leaving for Billericay. I had no idea that I was being watched by the Palestinian FA!
    'Yes sir. Sorry. Anyway, We thought that this was exactly your tybe of job. We khobed that you saw this as a good obbortunity. I am officially offering you the job. Do you accept sir?'

    My head and my heart were in a fierce tug-of-war at this point. Should I accept a job offer that I would absolutely love or should I enjoy my time out of work and relax for a while? I wanted to say no thanks and enjoy the rest of my holiday but my heart was forcing me accept.
    'Yes. I'll do it,' I said. Looking with excitment towards my wife who had absolutley no idea what was going on.
    'Great. I am very bleased you khave accebted. Thank you and I will arrange for you to be bicked up outside your khotel at 9am tomorrow. You will meet with the rest of the board and the players. Good bye Sir.
    'Bye.'



    And that was it. I was the new manager of 'B'alestine! A minnow of international football - similar to the situation at Billericay. The only problem I envisaged was the lack of good quality players. I can't take any players from abroad like in club management. This would be a different, much more difficult type of challenge. And that's before you even think about the language barrier. My Arabic isn't exactly perfect.
    What about my wife and kids though? My wife loves it here but I doubt she would want to live here and my kids have school and friends. I told them that I would have a talk with the Palestinian FA tomorrow about our situation and see where things go from there.

    That night I could hardly sleep thinking about what was to come the following morning when I would get a chance to meet the men at the PFA and to meet some of the players I would be managing.

    Eventually, at half past 1 in the morning I drifted off into a deep sleep.

  4. #4

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    Chapter Two - Home and Away

    Part I





    Alahu Akbar. Alahu Akbar. Alahu Akbar. Alahu Akbar.

    I woke up to these words at 5.30 in the morning. The morning was warm and the day was bright even though the sun had not yet risen. The melodious way in which this man was calling out these words from a nearby Mosque was almost mesmerising. It got me out of bed no problem and the slight tiredness in me quickly vanished. I was as excited for this meeting as I was for my interview with Torquay almost three decades ago.

    I spent the next three hours having a long, relaxing bath, a big breakfast, and getting changed for what would be my first new job for 16 years. I sat reading the Palestine Times in the lobby of the hotel waiting for someone from the PFA to arrive. The headline in the newspaper was something about the heightened tensions between Palestinians and those horrible Israelis who were occupying it. Why can't they just get along? I thought to myself. It was then that I realised what sort of a country I would be managing. Would I be safe here? What security measures would the team have? Was there any chance I would be targeted as a Westerner? And in terms of football, which high-profile nation in their right mind would travel to Palestine to play in a football match? I was hoping to get answers to some of these questions today.

    'Mr CM?' came a squeaky voice from behind. 'My name is Tahir Flieing Al-Batross. Blease come, the FA board members await you in Doha.'
    'Doha? I can't remember seeing that on the map of Palestine. Is it far?' I asked, slightly puzzled.
    'Doha is in Qatar Sir,' he replied sharply. 'You will need your passport and your luggage'
    'Qatar? but that's miles away!, I said totally bewildered as to what was going on.
    '1092 miles as the crow flies to be brecise ,' he answered with a cheeky grin on his face. 'I will wait batiently while you back your things. But blease be quick.'

    I ran back up to my hotel room to pack a bag for the 'trip' to Doha. But why the hell were we going to Doha?

    20 minutes later we arrived at the airport to board the flight to Qatar. Apparently, The Israelis had bombed the Palestinian National Stadium, right on the centre spot. This meant that obviously no football could be played, but also that no-one wanted to play in Palestine because of the security concerns. As a result, the Palestinian National team have had to play their 'home' games all the way in Doha, Qatar!
    'It's not that bad,' said Al-Batross. 'You will get used to it. The only broblem is that we can not create a good atmosphere because we have very few fans who can come here.'
    'That's a shame. Having the crowd on your side is a big help, especially for a small nation like Palestine.'
    'Blame the Zionists!,' he said. They show no mercy to the beoble of Balestine. You also must stay alert Sir.'
    'Thanks for the advice,' I said as we boarded the plane and took our seats in First Class.



    * * *



    'Marhaba, marhaba!' were the chants as the chauffeur opened my limousine door for me. The plane journey had taken about an hour and the limousine ride was another 15 minutes but I was at the stadium now being greeted by chubby bearded men dressed in long white robes.
    'Hello there Michael,' said someone in a familiar voice. 'Welcome to our adopted home stadium. We hope you like it.'
    'Hi Mustafa,' I said. I would have recognised that deep voice any time of the day.

    I was introduced by Al-footy to the other members of the Palestinian FA board who were all absolutely delighted to see me. Then we went inside the stadium and had dinner in the hospitality suite - top notch!

    Next up - meeting the players.

  5. #5

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    Chapter Two - Home and Away


    Part II




    'Surley the players don't come all the way here to train do they?' I said sarcastically.
    'No. That would be stubid Sir,' replied Al-footy in a lot more serious tone. 'We train closer to home. . . '
    'Thank god for that,' I said with a sigh of relief. But my relief didn't last long.
    '. . . in Egybt.' he said slowly but firmly.
    'What!?' I exclaimed.
    'That's right Sir. Like you said, Doha is too far away for a training session so we keep that closer to home in Egypt. You'll get used to it.'
    'Never mind,' I said, not wanting to think about the logistics of the travelling to and from training and the games. 'Can we meet the players?'. I was eager to get going now.

    Al-footy introduced me to a senior member of the coaching staff who led me to the pitch where the players were waiting for me.
    'This is Ahmad Ammaar, the current captain of the team.'




    'Me honour work with you,' he managed to say. I understood what he meant.


    'This is Ayman Al-Hindi'



    'Hello Sir,'


    The coach introduced me to some of the other players who were there at the time:












    From the little I saw of them at the time, I would say that these were going to be my best players in the short-term at least.

    A few days later I had the opportunity of conducting my own training session (in Egypt!) where I was also told about three fantastic young talents who were yet to be called up by Palestine due to their age. They were, Mustafa Al-Owairan, Zaid Al-Mujahidi and Musa Al-Bashir.








    Before hearing about these three I thought we had a very average side, even for the level that we were at. But after hearing about how good these lads were (who also happened to be mates off the field) I was confident that we would be able to cause a few upsets.


    Note:

    Spoiler!

  6. #6

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    Chapter Three - Tragedy


    Part I




    My first day on the job and there was already a problem. The secretary at the PFA headquarters had changed my name from Michael CM to Mikaeel Al-CM. Apparently my name had to sound Arabic to be accepted by the supporters! Weirdos.
    My first match of the Palestinian National team would be at 'home' against Sri Lanka. If I was in charge of any other team I wouldn't have even worried about the Sri Lankans but with Palestine, well, I don't need to explain.
    I was sitting at my desk in my new office in a leafy suburb of Bethlehem near my holiday hotel. My wife and kids had decided to return home and I would be joining them once the friendly was over.

    Suddenly I got a disturbing news report.


    Spoiler!


    Disturbing normally would mean a player getting involved with the police or breaking his legs in training. I was not expecting this. That's a great shame I thought and very sad for those involved but actually it was no big surprize considering where I was. Luckily for me, I was no-where near the affected area. I still phoned home straight away though to let my wife know I was ok.


    A few minutes later I got another message


    Spoiler!



    Now this terrified the living daylights out of me. This was terrible. Absolutely awful. Suddenly, the air around me felt thick and humid and my legs seemed to turn to jelly. I had to get out of the office and get some fresh air.
    As I stepped outside onto the street I was greeted by the bustling of the market place and the constant horning of cars and motorbikes.
    This is terrible. Absolutely terrible. Those guys were probably just average men trying to achieve something in their lives. Now it was all taken away from them and their families even though they probably had absolutley nothing to do with the violent, barbaric attacks. I was still in shock. I just could not get over it. As I stood on the side of the road looking bewildered I noticed Mustafa heading towards me.
    'Good morning Mikaeel,' he said surprisingly with a smile. He did not seem anywhere near as concerned as I was. I wasn't really bothered at this point that he was calling me Mikaeel. 'I take it you've heard.'
    'Yeah. I got the news a few minutes ago. I'm still shaking Mustafa.'
    'Try to calm down Sir. You will have to get used to this now that you live in Palestine,' he tried to reassure me.
    'Do we know yet exactly who the players were and for which team they played?,' I asked. 'I feel so sorry for the managers and the players of that team. They've lost part of the family. It's really terrible.'
    'That's exactly what I wanted to talk to you about Mikaeel,' he said in a soft but no-nonsense tone. 'Let's go into your office and talk there.'

    Now my heart was really pumping fast. It was almost as though it was going to burst out of my chest. I felt as though I had run the London marathon. Why did we have to sit down and talk in the office? Who were the players caught up in this tragedy? They're weren't from the Palestinian National team, were they . . . ?

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    Chapter Three - Tragedy


    Part II





    'No, no, no! It can't be them. Not them. How could this have happened?' I just couldn't control my emotions as I sobbed at my desk with Mustafa sitting besides me.
    'Look, Mikaeel,' he spoke softly. I could tell that this was affecting him. It had to. After all, he was human as well. 'I know that you are sad, but these things habben and you have to move on with your life.'
    'Are you sure that it was them?' I asked, hoping that there might have been some mistake.
    '100 ber cent,' he replied sharply. 'It hasn't been announced in the media yet but that is what I have been told.

    Just then I received confirmation of the deaths


    Spoiler!


    Spoiler!


    [SPOILER][SPOILER]


    It was the three starlets I was told about. I was able to meet them on my return from Doha last week at the airport. I was only with them for about 20 minutes but I learned so much about them in the time we spent together. The three of them were extremely hard workers. From all of my years in management I was absolutely certain that they were not going to grow up to become prima donnas. They were honest and hard-working youngsters who had very mature heads on their shoulders. They spoke about wanting to grow up and wanting to be part of the Palestinian National team. They wanted to do well for their country. Never once did they mention money or fast cars or women. They were the types of footballers that every manager dreams of having in their team. And they were amazingly talented for their ages. I was considering calling up Mustafa Al-Owairan to the First team as we were short on goalkeeping options.

    All of this wiped out in an instant by one Israeli bomb. The trio were heading home after a day out together and were in the wrong place at the wrong time unfortunately. How sad!

    'Mikaeel! Mikaeel!' shouted Mustafa.
    'Yeah?' I hadn't even noticed that he had been calling me for the last few minutes.
    'Will you be OK?' he asked, getting up from the chair. 'I need to get going.'
    'Yeah, you can go,' I replied. 'I'll be OK now, It was just a huge shock, that's all. I'll be fine now, thanks. You can leave.'

    The funeral for the three lads was held the very next day. It's a shame we don't do that in the West I thought, as it helps greatly to get over things quickly. It took me a few days after the funeral to regain my senses completely. I was here to do a job and however tragic the events of the last few days were, I had a game against Sri Lanka to prepare for.

  8. #8

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    Chapter 4 - Friendly Fire


    My first game as manager of Palestine - and I couldn't wait to get started.

    Friendly vs Sri Lanka
    Saturday 15th September 2001

    Vs

    Al-Ahli Stadium, Doha, Qatar


    Line-ups and formations:



    Spoiler!


    Palestine team news: First game of my Palestine career and I went mainly for experience over youth. I picked what I thought was my best team and I kept Ahmad Ammaar as the captain of the team.
    'This is our first game after three of our fellow countrymen were martyred,' I said, trying to speak their sort of language. 'Show these guys what we can do!'
    And with that they took to the pitch.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Fantastic performance by the team. We totally dominated from start to finish. They really did me and themselves proud. MOM Hisham Al-Salhi had an amazing game - a 27 minute hat-trick from the 27-year-old.


    MOM, Hisham Al-Salhi








    * * *



    I returned to Palestine after a two year break. The PFA had to cancel 4 friendlies in 2002 due to safety concerns. I was really looking forward to playing against Ecuador, New Zealand, Cameroon and Poland. I don't think I would have got even a draw from any one of those games but it would have been a good test of my managerial abilities.



    Friendly vs Kyrgyzstan
    Wednesday 11th June 2003


    Vs

    Spartak, Bishkek


    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I was happy with the performance in the previous match so I kept the same team but I decided to give Khalil Al-Naasir a game in goal.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: An even better performance by the team. Kyrgyzstan didn't get near the goal all game. It was 4 going on 10! MOM Said Al-Sobakhi was just untouchable. The defenders were unable to get anywhere near him as he picked out an inch perfect pass to pick out Ammaar before firing in from the edge of the area himself.
    2 games, 8 goals for and 0 against. A great start at any level.

    MOM, Said Al-Sobakhi Spoiler:






    * * *



    Friendly vs New Caledonia
    Tuesday 9th September 2003


    Vs

    Stade Pentecost, Noumea


    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: A few changes had to be made for this game, mainly due to injury. Edib Kurtovic came in up front for the captain Ammaar, Al-Fawaghra came in for Al-Salhi on the left and Fahed Attal was given a debut in the supporting role. Keshkesh also came in for the injured Al-Harith in midfield. The captain's armband was given to 21-year-old Chilean-born defender Roberto Bishara - a defender with a real future ahead of him.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Another great performance by the team. This start is giving me real confidence that we can go a long way in the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign. New Caledonia did take the lead thanks to a slight mix-up by my two central defenders but debutant, Musa Al-Jabar was on fire. 2 goals and a MOM performance. He's given me a selection headache on the right side of midfield.

    MOM, Musa Al-Jabar Spoiler:







    I was summoned to the PFA board room in the stadium after the game. I walked into the room and was greeted by a huge cheer and then Mustafa started - 'Hib Hib'
    'Hooray!'
    'Hib Hib'
    'Hooray!'
    'Hib Hib'
    'Hooray!'
    Wow! these guys had really been starved of any sort of success in the past. 3 friendly wins and I get this sort of a reception - I was loving it. It shouldn't be too hard to keep this lot happy, I thought.

    'Mustafa! Take it easy mate.' I said.
    'Why should we?' he said, opening up a bottle of Coke (no alcohol allowed in this part of the world). 'This is the first time we have had 3 wins in a row.'
    'For how long?' I asked.
    'This is the first time EVER we have had 3 wins in a row.'
    'Wow!' I blurted out. 'That is cause for celebration! Pour me a glass as well.'

    And with that I celebrated the three victories with the board members for a few hours before heading back to Bethlehem for the press conferences and interviews tomorrow. I was really starting to like this.

    Bring on the World Cup Qualifiers!
    Last edited by Patinoz; 05-03-12 at 10:04 PM.

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    Chapter 5 - The Road to Berlin
    Part I



    'So Birdy, how does the qualification process work here?' I asked Tahir Flieing Al-Batross. That was my nick-name for him. 'How many games do we play? How many rounds do we play? Come on, tell me everything.'
    'It's quite a long brocess,' he said. I was expecting that though. After all, we're not exactly the giants of world football. 'We begin with Round 1.
    'No kidding,' I joked. 'Sorry. Continue.'
    'There are 10 groubs with 4 teams in each one. We will blay each team twice - home and away. Only the tob team qualifies for Round 2 - that's where the big teams will be. In Round 2 there will be just 2 groubs of 5 teams each. Tob 2 will qualify from each groub and the 3rd blaced teams will blay in Round 3.'
    'Sounds simple enough.' I said. 'So the winner of the Round 3 playoff qualifies as well?'
    'All of this discussion seems academic Mikaeel. We will be lucky to get bast Round 1. We've never got to Round 2 before.'
    'Come on Birdy, things are different now,' I responded. 'I'm here!
    'Well if you must know, the winner of Round 3 blays against a Eurobean team. The winner over two legs in that game will qualify for the World Cub. So in total, Asia will have 4 and possibly 5 teams in Germany 2006.'

    'Great. I'm hopeful it will be five,' I said.
    'It may be Mikaeel. But there's no chance it will be us. We just don't have the blayers to combete. We have no chance against teams like Jaban, South Korea and Iran. And even these teams are just habby to be blaying in the World Cub'
    'Have some faith Birdy,' I said. 'We don't have briliant players. But we do have hard-working players who will try their best and I'm going to bring the best out of them.'
    'I admire your obtimism but, realistically it's not going to habben,' he said. 'Dont get your hobes ub too high.'

    I was determined to prove him and the others wrong. The draw for Round 1 of the qualifiers was made later that morning: Spoiler:




    The board announced their expectations of the team. Spoiler:



    So basically, they want the team to qualify from the first round. That's the least that I want from the team as well. Surely, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and Uzbekistan can't be that good, can they? Then we just have to hope that the draw is kind to us and that we get a lot of luck going our way!
    Bring on the the Indonesians!

  10. #10

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    Chapter 5 - The Road to Berlin

    Part II


    After nearly four years in the job I'm finally going to be playing my first competitive game of my Palestine career. The opponents were Indonesia who were easily the strongest team in my group. Chinease Taipei shouldn't be a problem and Uzbekistan should be managable. I could be proven totally wrong though. I'm predicting a two horse race between us and Indonesia so the first game is almost a decider to begin with.


    World Cup Quals (ASI) 1st Rnd vs Indonesia
    Monday 2nd May 2005


    Vs

    Al-Ahli Stadium, Doha, Qatar


    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:






    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news:The right side of the team has been totally changed. I called up Tariq Al-Azeezi into midfield and Talal Al-Khojali behind him in defense. Al-Azeezi looks like a very good find - a MR with good passing and long shots attributes. Up front I decided to stick with Kurtovic being supported by Fahed Attal. Young central defender Roberto Bishara was named captain.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: The game was dominated by Indonesia due to their superior technical ability but my players closed them down at every opportunity and did not allow them to play. So, although they had more possession, they did very little with it in our third of the pitch. We, on the other hand, had brief spells but we were decisive. My changes on the right side paid off nicely, with both players scoring! It is only the first game but this was a great result for us. Next up is Chinease Taipei.

    MOM, debutant Tariq Al-Azeezi with a goal and an assist from an inswinging corner on to the head of Al-Khojali Spoiler:





    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 1st Rnd vs Chinese Taipei
    Friday 6th May 2005


    Vs

    Chungshan Cosser Stadium, Taipei


    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:






    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news:Other than the star man Al-Azeezi who was out with a stubbed toe the side was unchanged. Al-Jabar got his chance to impress again on the right of midfield.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Another decent performance by the team. The keeper did let us down a bit, as a result we had to come back twice from a goal down. Everyone has an off-day once in a while. I'm just glad it was against weak opposition. On a separate note, I'm not quite sure why the officials gave their goalkeeper a 5/10 rating. He made 5 brilliant saves to keep his team in the game.


    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 1st Rnd vs Uzbekistan
    Monday 9th May 2005


    Vs

    Al-Ahli Club Stadium, Doha, Qatar

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:






    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: Tariq Al-Azeezi was back for this game on the right side of midfield after his one-game absence. The rest of the team was unchanged.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: The final score and the game stats don't paint the complete picture of this game. We started off very nervously and created just one half-chance the whole of the first half. Things were made worse when in the last minute of the first half they had their first counter-attack and scored through an own-goal from the righ-back Khojali. He was trying to clear a cross from the left when he sliced the ball horribly and could only watch as the ball looped tantalisingly over Al-Naasir and into the back of the net. At half time I was so furious that I didn't make a single change. I wanted them to rectify their own mistakes. I instructed my left-back, Bannon, to push further forward and I gave Attal the license to roam around the pitch in the supporting role. The players followed my advice to the letter and it worked. We were a transformed team and we played like we had been playing in the friendies. Bannon was pushing forward at every opportunity and Attal was pulling the strings in midfield. It was only a matter of time now. Then, in the 68th minute, Al-Salhi and Bannon played a one-two and slipped the ball down the flank for Attal. Attal turned up the speed, raced down to the by-line and whipped in an amazing cross to the penalty spot where Kurtovic could do nothing than to head it low past the stranded Nesterov in goal! 1-1.

    We played a superb game after that, defending brilliantly at the same time. Our keeper was nothing but a spectator for the entire second half (like he was for their goal as well!). Then, on 79 minutes my two defensive midfielders combined brilliantly and Keshkesh played an inch-perfect, defense-splitting pass thfough for Attal to chase. He got to the ball and just chipped it over the onrushing 'keeper. It rolled slowly over the line and into the back of the net prompting wild celebrations from the travelling 1000 or so supporters. Not a perfect performance but I was pleased with the way that we responded after doing nothing in the first half. I was particularly impressed with man-of-the-match Attal.

    MOM, Fahed Attal Spoiler:





    * * *


    9 points from 9 - a great start by the team but this is just halfway yet. The reverse fixtures, especially away to Indonesia and Uzbekistan, will decide our fate in the forthcoming weeks.

  11. #11

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    Chapter 5 - The Road to Berlin

    Part III




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 1st Rnd vs Indonesia
    Friday 13th May 2005


    Vs

    Gelora Bung Karno, Jakarta

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: No team changes to mention. I had trust in the team as they were playing well and with confidence.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Yes! This was always going to be the big game and the decider. It wasn't the best of starts as the Indonesian forwards passed their way through our motionless defence and scored the first goal after just 5 minutes. They came close again on four other occasions but couldn't take advantage. Our star man from the last game, Fahed Attal was our only positive in the first half and he gave me some hope on 29 minutes when he picked the ball up just inside the centre circle after a break, beat two defenders and slotted the ball calmly past the onrushing 'keeper. I changed a few things at half time and our performance was much better. Al-Salhi popped up on 69 minutes to head home the winner from a superb Kurtovic head-down. It ended 2-1 to us which meant that with just two games to go we were 6 points clear. We just needed one more point from our remaining two games to be sure of qualifying for Round 2.

    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 1st Rnd vs Chinese Taipei
    Friday 20th May 2005


    Vs

    Al-Ahli Club Stadium, Doha, Qatar

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I decided to make sure of the 1 point that we needed in this game. I didn't want a nervous trip to Uzbekistan needing a point to qualify! So, I kept the same team. The only change was up front, with Ammaar coming back in as Kurtovic needed a rest.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: We have qualified for Round 2! Although the scoreline shows otherwise, it was another superb performance by the team. Only the keeper Al-Naasir had a poor game - he's making a habit of this against Taipei! It didn't bother me too much though. We took the lead twice only to be pegged back on both occasions. In the end we held on for the draw and made it through to Round 2 of the qualifications for the first time ever. Celebrations! Spoiler:





    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 1st Rnd vs Uzbekistan
    Friday 27th May 2005


    Vs

    Pakhtakor, Toshkent

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: Even though we were already through I didn't want a poor performance affecting the team's morale so I kept the team as it was. The only enforced change was that of Hadim Barghouthi in for the injurd Al-Khojali at right-back.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: A lucky draw for us in the end. We didn't deserve a point from this game and could have easily conceded 5 or 6 if it wasn't for some woeful finishing from their strikers. It stayed 2-1 to Uzbekistan from 34 minutes until the last minute of injury where my defensive midfielder Keshkesh capitalised on a mixup in their defense to power a shot past their 'keeper and, more importantly, preserve the team's unbeaten record.

    MOM, Aziz Ibragimov Spoiler:





    * * *



    This is how the final table looked at the end of the 6 games of Round 1 Spoiler:





    * * *



    Friendly vs Sri Lanka
    Wednesday 1st June 2005


    Vs

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I finally decided to try a few other players out who I thought may help when called upon in the more difficult Round 2 of qualifying. Ashour came in at right-back, Yousef and Abuseleisel were paired in central defense, Al-Amour played on the left flank and Obaid played in the supporting role. I also gave Al-Hindi, who is naturally a central midfielder, a game in defensive midfield to see if he could perform there as I only had three defensive midfielders in total.


    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: A satisfactory performance from the team. We dominated most of the game, got the goals, and in general got the job done. I was pleased that Al-Hindi played well as that means he can be called upon to fill in for the defensive midfield role.

    MOM, Ismail Al-Amour Spoiler:





    * * *

  12. #12

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    Chapter 6 - The Second Hurdle

    Part I



    May 27th, 2005 was a hot, sunny day (again). I could get used to this I thought. I couldn't remember the last miserable, gloomy day I had - a sharp contrast to my drab, drizzly, wet, cold mornings in Torquay and Billericay. After making it through to Round 2 of the qualifying campaign I was really getting excited about what may happen in a few weeks time. I also had another board meeting today with the PFA. The board are so accommodating and thoughtful that they all speak English when I'm there just so that I feel comfortable. Although, it is very difficult to keep a straight face sometimes because of the way they pronounce the words but I appreciate the effort. I, on the other hand, have made no attempt to learn the language - the typical British way to do things!

    'Mikaeel,' said one of the board members, looking up at me from accross the long mahogany table. 'We like to start by thanking you from bottom of our khearts for qualification. When we khired you we were confident that you do well but we never think like this. To show our abbreciation we offer you a brand new McLaren F1. We hobe you like it.'
    'A McLaren F1?'. I asked in shock. Then I was shown the car out the window in the car park Spoiler:




    'Wow!'I said. 'I don't know if I can accept this,'.
    Yeah right! I was just trying to make myself look a little bit respectable. I would never turn down an offer like that for anything. 'I will happily accept it. I thank you for supporting me along the way and I hope that you will keep faith in me for the forthcoming fixtures.'
    'Of course,', he replied quickly. 'We do khave one question, Mikaeel. Without questioning your integrity and ability as a fantastic manager, I and the other board members would like to know why you refuse to blay Al-Mubarak.'
    'Who?' I asked, completely puzzled and turning to Birdy who was supposed to inform me of potential players.
    'Muhammed Al-Mubarak' said the same board member.
    'Muhammed Al-mubarak?' why does that name ring a bell I thought.
    'Yes. Khe blays for Luton Town in Coca League League 1.'
    'What!' I said, totally shocked that we had somehow managed to overlook someone who actually plays in a proper league. 'I thought he was Moroccan.'
    'Khe is Moroccan by birth but khas never blayed for them,' he explained. 'Khe has Balestinian barents. We khave seen khim blay lots of times very good. We thought khe may be a good addition to the team.'
    Damn right he would I thought. I quickly recalled how Al-Mubarak had taken my defence to bits when he played against Billericay. 'Why have I never been told about this guy?' I asked Birdy.
    'Sorry boss,' he said rather pathetically. 'I thought you would have known about him having sbent so much time in England.'
    'Never mind, I said. 'If we hadn't qualified for Round 2 you would have been in serious trouble Birdy. Make sure you call him up straight away. I want him in the squad for Round 2. It will be like a new signing!'

    The rest of the meeting was quite boring. I'm not sure exactly what was said as I dozed off a few times in the warm, comfortable chair. At the end, a board member said a quick prayer in Arabic remembering 38 Palestinians killed in a recent Israeli attack and the three young 'martyrs' who would have played for the Palestinian National team.

    Then we waited for the Round 2 draw to take place. After a long wait the groups were finalised. This is the group that I am hoping to get out of: Spoiler:



    It's going to be very, very tough to even finish 3rd, never mind in the top 2 positions. Everyone of those teams is far superior to our team on paper and all of them have played in recent World Cups. I'm just hoping that my good name in management isn't tainted too much with a run of embarassing defeats.

    The real test for my Palestinian team is about to begin.

  13. #13

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    Chapter 6 - The Second Hurdle

    Part II


    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs Iraq
    Friday 19th August 2005



    Vs

    Al-Shab'ab Stadium, Baghdad

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:






    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I played with what I thought was my strongest team against Iraq who I predict to be the weakest team in the group. Unfortunately, starlet Roberto Bishara had to return home to Chile to attend a family funeral so Sameeh Yousef got another chance in defence alongside the reliable Majed Abusidu. Barghouti came in at right-back and leading the attack was newly selected Al-Mubarak Spoiler:



    At first glance he looks impressive but I wasn't too happy with his desire and work rate in training. Maybe that's why he blew hot and cold in England. I decided to give him a chance and see what he could do.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: A great performance by the team. We matched Iraq in every area of the pitch and didn't let them settle. Al-Naasir didn't have the best of games in goal (again) but he is still the best of a bad bunch of players. Debutant, Al-Mubarak had a horrible game. He was too slow to close down their defenders which led to the build-up of two of their goals and he got booked. To make matters worse (for him) his replacement at half-time scored within minutes. The score was 3-3 after 57 minutes but then the game calmed down and I think both teams accepted the draw. As predicted Mahmood scored two for Iraq but their star man was Al-Beshry who provided the assists for Mahmoud before converting one himself.

    MOM, Omer Saleh Al-Beshry Spoiler:





    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs China
    Friday 26th August 2005


    Vs

    Al-Ahli Club Stadium, Doha

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:






    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I named an unchanged team for this game and gave Al-Mubarak the captain's armband to show that I was willing to give him another chance.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Although we won this game, we can not rely on luck to get us through to the WC. China totally outplayed us and had it not been for the 'keepers the result would have been totally different. Zhu Ting ran circles around Abusidu and China were cruising 2-1 at half time. I decided to change things around with Kurtovic replacing the disappointing Attal in the supporting role and Keshkesh given more of a license to push forward. The second half was the same as the first. China dominated posession, created chance after chance but did not take any. We, on the other hand, had just 3 shots on target in the second half and scored from every one. Talk about luck! Although their striker got the MOM award I was impressed with Keshkesh and Kurtovic, who scored after coming off the bench for the second time.

    MOM: Zhu Ting

    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs Saudi Arabia
    Friday 9th September 2005


    Vs

    King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:






    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: 3 changes for this match: Bishara had returned from Chile and took his place alongside Abusidu and Al-Harith returned from a long injury to replace Kaw'reh in defensice midfield. I decided to try Al-Johar at right-back. His name means 'the jewel' and I was hoping that he would sparkle tonight!

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: My first defeat in charge of Palestine and my first defeat for 1547 days! It felt bitter. I couldn't complain though. The game was even until the 45th minute when the star from the last game, Keshkesh, went in hard on Al-Shehri. It was one of those that could have gone either way. Unfortunately for us it went the way of the Saudis as the referee decided to send Keshkesh off. Form then on we were playing with 10 men behind the ball and we were unable to prevent MOM Al-Qahtani from scoring a superb solo goal on 76 minutes. The only silver lining was a solid performance from 'the jewel'


    MOM: Yasser Al-Qahtani

    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs Japan
    Friday 16th September 2005



    Vs

    Al-Ahli Club Stadium, Doha

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:






    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: This was easily going to be the biggest test of my Palestine career. Japan had reached the semi-final of the 2002 World Cup and were already clear at the top of the group with 3 wins from 3. I kept the same team apart from Al-Hindi, who replaced the suspended Keshkesh.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Oh my god! Japan really showed us how to play football here. Even if the score had been 0-10 it would not have done justice to the Japanese players. It hurts to say this, but they were absolutely suberb - just stunning. Yamase played briliantly in the hole behind the two strikers and even though I had him marked, he was untouchable. My boys were chasing long shadows all evening. They tried their best but they were just not good enough. I'm starting to think that maybe this is as far as we can go in this qualifying campaign. After 4 games, we have 4 points and lie in 4th position. We have to improve our game if we are to progress from Round 2 of qualification.

    MOM, Koji Yamase (greyed out player)

    * * *

  14. #14

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    Chapter 6 - The Second Hurdle

    Part II



    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs Iraq
    Friday 23rd September 2005



    Vs

    Al-Ahli Club Stadium, Doha

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: This game is a must-win game for us. Iraq are currently bottom of the group and I expect them to stay that way. If we are going to have any chance of qualifying we need to win this game.
    The only enforced change was that of Al-Khojali on the right in place of the injured Azeezi. Keshkesh returned to the side in midfield after his suspension.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: A strong performance by the team. We didn't do anything fancy. We just passed the ball around neatly and tried to find the openings. Rabit Al-Harith had a great game in midfield, stopping any Iraqi attacks from geting anywhere near our goal. It took until the 64th minute to get the breakthrough though. The young Chilean-born captain, Bishara, came up for a corner and headed the ball into the bottom corner of the net where their defender should have been standing on the post. 1-0 and job done.

    MOM, Rabit Al-Harith Spoiler:





    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs China
    Friday 30th September 2005


    Vs

    Worker's Stadium, Beijing

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: The star man from the last game, Al-Harith, picked up a knock during training so he would miss the game. This forced me to play a more attacking game with a new formation which I had tried only for brief periods during friendlies. Attal and Al-Sobakhi (the replacement for Rabit) would both be supporting Al-Mubarak up front. The rest of the team was unchanged.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: In the end, we were lucky (again) to get a point away to a very good Chinease team. They had more attempts on goal than us and they played better than us in general. We were fortunate that we had our shooting boots on today - scoring our 3 goals from just 4 shots on goal. Al-Harith's replacement Al-Sobakhi had a great game - a goal, an assist and a 9/10 rating. I might think of using this formation more often if I ever need to.

    MOM, Shen Longyuan Spoiler:





    * * *




    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs Saudi Arabia
    Friday 14th October 2005


    Vs

    Al-Ahli Club Stadium, Doha

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: Saudi Arabia hadn't been playing that well in the last two games and were struggling for goals. This was our chance to make sure of qualification. 4 points from from the last two games (if other results go our way) would give us 2nd place in the group - automatic qualification for the World Cup. That was easier said than done though. We might get 3 points here but getting even a point in Japan seems impossible. Al-Shehri came in at left back for the ever present Bannon and I decided to go for the system that got us a draw in China. I was actually confident that we would get a result and the 3 points here.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Brilliant! I was confident of the win but not of 4 goals - it was like the first 3 friendlies again. We created lots of chances and should have scored more if it wasn't for some poor finishing. Having said that, Al-Mubarak had his best game for us, scoring two and setting up Al-Salhi for the third. We have secured a playoff position. Yes, that's right, Palestine have secured a playoff position for Round 3 at least. An amazing effort from the lads.

    MOM, Mohammed Al-Mubarak Spoiler:





    * * *



    At the end of the peultimate group games this is how the table looks: Spoiler:



    The final fixtures are: China vs Iraq and Japan vs PALESTINE. I can not see China getting anything other than 3 points against a very weak Iraqi side. That means that we will HAVE to get a point in Japan if we are to qualify for World Cup Finals automatically. But even if we don't, it's still amazing that we've got a chance through the playoffs (another 3 games but still a chance).

  15. #15

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    Chapter 7 - The Eleventh Hour

    Part I



    World Cup Quals (ASI) 2nd Rnd vs Japan
    Friday 21st October 2005


    Vs

    National Stadium, Tokyo


    Just to re-cap, this is how things stand: Spoiler:



    We need to avoid defeat to go through (unless China win by a 5-goal margin). I am so glad that we have already achieved a playoff place because I don't think we have any chance of getting a win here. I'm just hoping that we don't get slaughtered.

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I decided to keep the same line-up and formation that had drawn 3-3 with China and had beaten the Saudis 4-0. This was my strongest team and this was my strongest test.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Crap! And it could have been worse. We need to learn from our mistakes in this game if we are to do well against the better teams. Japan were all over us like a nasty rash. They passed the ball superbly and took some of their chances. I can't blame the players for trying but we were just too slow and too weak. They gave it everything that they had but it wasn't enough. Mental note#1: Make players work out in the gym more.
    We got off to the worst possible start by conceding in just the third minute after Attel's pass was intercepted on the half-way line and Japan broke and scored from it. Mental note#2: Work on passing.
    The second and third goals were simple back-post headers from corners. Mental note#3: Defend the back post on corners.
    At half-time we went in 3-0 down with China beating Iraq 2-0. I sent the boys out again making just one change (Fawaghra for Al-Salhi on the left wing).
    The second half started well for us when their defensive midfielder lost the ball to Al-Mubarak who dribbled through the back line and slotted the ball neatly past the 'keeper. We can do well when Al-Mubarak is up for it I thought. He can take his chances when he wants to.
    Japan's fourth goal was a superb example of passing. They strung together 26 passes which included every single Japanese player touching the ball at some point. Then the ball was played over to the right, and after a one-two the ball was crossed in and headed by Sato past Al-Naasir. Mental note#4: congratulate opposition when they do something as special as that.
    Japan's fifth goal came in injury time following a corner. Our defenders gained control of the ball only to be disposessed again when we tried to play the ball out of defense. Their MOM Okamoto took the ball and played it to the unmarked Yamase to hit it into the net. Mental note#5: When in doubt and in your own penalty area, kick the ball as hard and as high as you can! 5-1 was the final score. Well, at least we scored!

    MOM, Kenji Okamoto Spoiler:





    * * *


    In the other game, China won comfortably which means that we will have to qualify for the World Cup the hard way.

    This is how Round 2 of qualifying finished: Spoiler:



    We will have to play one playoff match against the 3rd placed team in Group 1 - Kuwait and then we will have to play against a European team over two legs to qualify for the World Cup. It's not going to be easy.

  16. #16

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    Chapter 7 - The Eleventh Hour

    Part II



    World Cup Quals (ASI) 3rd Rnd Final vs Kuwait
    Friday 28th October 2005


    Vs

    Al Qadesseyah, Kuwait City


    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:







    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: The main team news for this huge game was the return of Keshkesh in midfield which meant that I could revert back to my preferred formation. Al-Fawaghra came in on the left and Abuseleisel replaced Abusidu at the back. I hope that the players would not be daunted by the fact that the crowd of 22,000+ was ten times bigger than what they were used to.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Well well well! In the end it turned out to be somewhat of an anticlimax. I was expecting a lot more from Kuwait, who had beaten South Korea in the previous round. The game started off very open and in fact we started poorly, allowing Al-Dawod a free header from a corner to score the games first goal. From then on it was all Palestine. Kaw'reh equalised 3 minutes later from a corner and the half time score was 1-1. Our worst player in the first-half (Al-Khojali) came off injured after 36 minutes. I replaced him with Al-Salhi. The second half was quiet throughout except for a crazy 7 minute spell when we scored 3 goals. Firstly, Al-Mubarak (who is getting better and better) scored from a header after some good work down the left by Al-Salhi. Then Al-Fawaghra scored from 25 yards after cutting in from the right wing before arrowing a shot past the helpless 'keeper. Just seconds later, the impressive substitute Al-Salhi rounded off a superb display after MOM Bannon played him down the inside-right channel.
    We can play really well against average opposition. I'm sure that the players could perform like this against better opposition if they came to the game with a positive attitude.
    Bring on the Europeans!

    MOM, Mohammed Bannon Spoiler:





    * * *



    Having overcome Kuwait, I waited patiently in my office staring at the screen in anticiaption of who we would have to play in the final 2 games of qualifying. Birdy and Mustafa were sitting besides me like two young children waiting to open their Christmas presents.
    'I can't wait much longer, Mikaeel,' said Mustafa. 'The waiting is killing me.'
    'Here, have a Bebsi and calm down,' said Birdy throwing a can of Pepsi in Mustafa's direction.
    'What are the possible outcomes Birdy? Are there any good teams left in the draw?' I asked, hoping that we wouldn't be playing a team who we would have no chance against.
    'Well, most teams have already qualified but the teams who still have a chance are Albania, Belarus, Cybrus and Latvia.' he said looking at the sheet of paper in front of him on the desk.
    'Really? That's fantastic. I know it's going to be tough but those teams aren't exactly world beaters are they?' I said, very, very pleased at the way things were turning out.
    'Great news Mikaeel. I'm confident you can get us to the World Cub blaying against any of those teams.' said Mustafa.
    'Yeah so am I,' I said looking forward to the draw with more relief than fear now.
    'Khang on,' said Mustafa taking the paper from Birdy. 'There are more teams on the other side of this baber.'
    'Oh damn!' I said. I knew this was too good to be true. 'Go on then. Who else can we possibly face?'
    'Scotland . . .' said Mustafa slowly as the shock was starting to sink in. '. . . Norway, Denmark.'
    'Well I hope we avoid them,' I said in hope. But he continued.
    'Bortugal!' he shouted out. 'And finally, the Great Enemy - Israel'

    My mouth fell wide open as I went from complete euphoria to utter hopelessness within the space of a few seconds. To even mention the name of Palestine with the likes of Scotland, Denmark, Norway and Portugal would be doing unjustice to these great footballing sides. And Israel, well I think FIFA (and America!) would have something to say if that fixture popped out of the hat!

    'Well, let's khobe it's one of the first teams,' said Mustafa clearly dejected by his discovery.
    As the draw was being made I sincerley hoped that we would not be paired with Israel - there would be no safe way of playing those games anywhere in the world. Portugal were drawn out first. 'will play . . .Belarus' said the commentator on the TV.
    Then it was us, 'Palestine. . . will play . . . Spoiler:





    Well. at least we didn't get Portugal or Israel. Of the better teams my first choice would have probably been Scotland or Norway.
    'Damn.' exclaimed Mustafa, clearly unhappy with the draw. 'It's going to be khard Mikaeel, very khard. . .

  17. #17

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    Chapter 7 - The Eleventh Hour

    Part III



    World Cup Quals (ASI) Playoff Leg 1 vs Norway
    Saturday 12th November 2005


    Vs

    Al-Ahli Club Stadium


    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:







    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: The only change came on the right wing as Al-Jabar came back into the team - Al-Azeezi was still injured. Abuseleisel kept his place at the back alongside young captain Bishara. We have to take some sort of a lead to Norway if we are going to make the World Cup. I can't see anything but a Norway win in the second leg.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Thank you referee. Top of my Christmas card list! This is just getting better and better and better! 2-0 against Norway! 2-0 against Norway! I can't believe it! The players were superb again. It's a bit unfair that our 'keeper was given the MOM. It gives the impression that he kept us in the game when in fact it was Norway's 'keeper who kept our score low. Kaw'reh was immense in midfield, sniffing out any danger and it was him who opened the scoring on 32 minutes with a clever side-footed shot from the edge of the area low into the corner of the net. At the start of the second half we came out with the same passion and drive and outplayed the Norwegians. Norway improved their game with the introduction of Hoiland and he created two good chances which fortunately for us were not taken. Then, in the 78th minute we killed off the tie when right-back Al-Johar (the jewel) raced forward, got to the byline and sent in a looping cross to the back post which was met by the head of Attal. 2-0.
    We can not be complacent when we go to Norway. It will be a completely different game but I can not believe we have such a great chance now of qualifying for the World Cup. The World Cup is potentially just 90 minutes away!

    MOM, Khalil Al-Naasir Spoiler:




  18. #18

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    Chapter 7 - The Eleventh Hour

    The Final Part



    World Cup Quals (ASI) Playoff Leg 2 vs Norway
    Saturday 12th November 2005


    Vs

    Ullevaal Stadion Oslo, Oslo

    2-0 to Palestine from the first leg


    It was time for the biggest game of my career. Even bigger than the FA Cup with Billericay against Liverpool and even bigger than the Champions League Final with Torquay against Barcelona. Taking Palestine to the World Cup Finals? Yeah this was easily the biggest of the lot. For Palestine, this was the equivalent of England playing in a World Cup Final. It was that big. I knew it, the players knew it and the fans certainly knew it as they made their way to the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo in their thousands. I was almost speechless as I heard the chanting of the crowd from the dressing room. I just hoped so much that the whole spectacle wasn't going to be too much for my players. A few years ago, the biggest game these players had would have been trying to qualify from Round 1 of the qualifiers. This was already beyond the players' wildest dreams.

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:







    Palestine team news: Nothing to report here. I kept exactly the same team as the first leg. I had confidence in these lads and I was hoping that they would rise to the occasion. They were NEVER going to get a chance like this to play in the World Cup, fulfilling their craziest and most outlandish dreams.

    The Game: Predictably, the game started off very tense. We were looking to play the game simple and safe and the Norwegans were slightly cautious as they knew what we were capable of, so the first 15 minutes were played in and around the centre cirle. The team were doing well until that point and I was more than happy that this was turning out to be a rather dull affair. As sections of the crowd began thier own form of entertainment with a Mexican wave the game suddenly sprang to life. Fredrik Stromstad played a through ball down the centre of the pitch for Abdellaoue to run onto but the pass was too long and Abuseleisel received the ball. The Norwegan forward moved to close down our centre-back and, unfortunately, Abuseleisel under-hit the pass back to the goalkeeper. I could only stand and watch in horror as Skjelbred raced forward, intercepted the pass and slotted a low shot past Al-Naasir who was stranded in no-man's land.
    Goal for Norway. The Norwegan fans went wild and I was fuming with rage. I had told the players that we didn't want any silly mistakes but that is what I got. From then on Norway were a changed team and they started showing their true European class, especially the left-back Riise. He was ripping apart my right side of midfield with his clever runs and passes. Norway were on top and they were creating chances. My players were playing like the old Palestine! First, Brenne had a shot saved by Al-Naasir and then Bishara blocked a shot on the edge of the area from Eikrem. Al-Naasir also denied Abdellaoue on two occasions - all this within the first 35 minutes of the game! The Norwegan fans knew that they their team was on top now and that it was only a matter of time before the next goal. That goal came on 42 minutes when Riise scampered down the left, played a one-two with Brenne and sent in a low cross which evaded everyone except Eikrem at the back post who side-footed the ball past the helpless Al-Naasir.
    Goal for Norway. 2-0 and now we were back where we had started. Everything was level again and that's how it stayed until half-time. I brought my players into the dressing room but I did not give them the hairdryer treatment. This would have made things 10 times worse. I reignited the players' desire and determination by reminding them of their better games and performances. I gave them the self belief to go out there and give it their best. Abuseleisel was having a torrid time and I thought that it made sense to bring him off for Ashour. Other than that, I told the team to attack more than they had been doing. We had already scored 2 goals against Norway, that means we can score again. The players took to the pitch for the second half knowing that they needed a goal - one single goal and a solid defensive performance to take Palestine to the World Cup for the first time ever.

    The second half didn't take long to get going and it was us who re-took our lead. Al-Fawaghra cut in from the left wing and spotted Al-Mubarak on the shoulder of the last defender. He played a perfect through ball and Al-Mubarak timed his run to perfection to give him a one-on-one with the goalie. From then on, the goalie had no chance. Al-Mubarak showed his class by doing a few stepovers before skipping past the 'keeper and slotting the ball into the empty net.
    Goal for Palestine. 2-1 and we had re-taken the lead. We had our all-important away goal. Norway would need to score two more goals now. We just had to defend properly. Stay focussed and no silly mistakes to give Norway hope. I expected a backlash from the Norwegans and it came with a vengeance. On 61 minutes Norway earned a corner. It was lofted to the edge of the penalty area where there was no-one...except for Riise! Of all people, I did not want the ball dropping to him. Unfortunately for us it did. He hit an amazing, net-busting volley from the edge of the area which flew past our 'keeper and into the net.
    Goal for Norway. 3-1 to Norway now and the game was on a knife-edge. The famous cliche, 'the next goal will decide it', was created for this game I thought because it fitted perfectly here. The game went quiet as both midfields were cancelling each other out and no team was able to really threaten. With 84 minutes on the clock I was starting to bite my nails. 'Come on lads, hang on in there' I thought to myself. 'Give me the performance of your life for the last 6 minutes'. As soon as I thought that, the killer goal was scored. The Norwegan right-back Ruud came forward with the ball and attempted to pass it in-field. The pass was short and it was intercepted by Kaw'reh. He broke forward, as did Al-Jabar and Al-Mubarak. It was 3 against 3. 'This is the moment,' I thought. 'This is your chance lads. This is where you make history. Come on. Do it!' Kaw-reh moved through the middle, passed the ball to Al-Mubarak and continued his run. Al-Mubarak played the ball back into Kaw'reh's path who dummied the ball through his legs for Al-Jabar who was free on the penalty spot! 'SHOOT!' I screamed. 'SHOOT!' 'SHOOT!'. It felt as thought I was watching the matrix as Al-Jabar controlled the ball, turned towards the goal and side-footed the ball past the despairing 'keeper and the onrushing defenders.
    Goal for Palestine! 3-2 to Norway. Then it was as though someone had pressed the Play button as the ball hit the back of the net and the Palestinian players ran towards me to celebrate. I ran onto the pitch to meet them as well. The Palestinian fans went mental and so did the coaching staff and subs. Everyone was on the pitch on top of Al-Jabar - what an instant star he's become! I slowly walked off the pitch after making sure my players stayed focussed for the last few minutes of this game. I don't see Norway scoring another 2 goals. And they didn't. Actually, it was us who scored another goal as the Norwegan players were dumbstruck and had no idea what to do. They were totally distraught as Al-Mubarak picked up the ball on the edge of their penalty area in stoppage time, dropped his shoulder and went past the centre-back before slamming the ball into the roof of the net. 3-3! and with that the final whistle went.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: What a performance! What a game! What a result! The FIFA World Cup would be seeing a new team - Palestine.

    MOM, John Arne Riise Spoiler:




  19. #19

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    Chapter 8 - Almost There

    Part I




    It has been a month since the historic game against Norway. All of the Palestinian people now know who I am. Whenever I step out onto the busy streets of Bethlehem to pop down to the local grocers or butchers I am stopped by at least one person. I'm greeted (sometimes with kisses!) and congratulated and thanked. Those that know English say things like 'We will never be able to repay this favour of yours, Mikaeel' or 'I hope that you are rewarded well in your life'. Others mutter things in Arabic which I'm sure are also good! The Palestinian FA are obviously over the moon with the qualification for the World Cup. I've lost count of the amount of 'extras' I've received since the qualification - another car (a classic Ferrari F40 this time), free flights to Palestine for the rest of my life, an apartment overlooking the Dead Sea and other stuff I can't even remember. These Arabs are definitely loaded with money! No-one (including me) realistically thought that we would qualify. I think the reality was now starting to sink in for me as well - Palestine were going to the World Cup! No matter how many times I say that in my head it still feels weird.

    It was about to become even more real as the draw for the 2006 World Cup in Germany was taking place today. These were the teams that had made it through to the greatest stage in world football: Spoiler:




    We arrived in Germany and my mind was baffled at the thought of playing against the likes of Italy, Germany, Brazil, Argentina and, of course, England. It was great for the Palestinians to see that Israel were not going to be there. There's no chance that we are going to even get a win in the World Cup (I can only see us on a par with Guatemala) so I hope we are drawn against the best - hopefully England or another team from Europe and maybe a decent team from Latin America. Me, Birdy and Mustafa took our seats in the packed studio in Leipzig, Germany and awaited the draw amongst the dozens of other dignitaries and important people - most of whom were short, chubby and dressed in black suits.
    First, the top teams were drawn out -

    Group A - Italy
    Group B - Spain
    Group C - Germany
    Group D - Brazil
    Group E - Portugal
    Group F - Holland
    Group G - Argentina
    Group H - England

    'I hope we get Group H' I whispered to Mustafa.
    'I want to play against Germany, he replied. 'I have friends in Munich'.

    After three rounds of draws the groups looked like this:

    Group A - Italy, USA, Greece
    Group B - Spain, Colombia, Turkey
    Group C - Germany, Ivory Coast, Ukraine
    Group D - Brazil, Mexico, Japan
    Group E - Portugal, Morocco, Russia
    Group F - Holland, Uruguay, France
    Group G - Argentina, South Korea, Denmark
    Group H - England, Scotland, Tunisia

    The final teams were drawn out of the hat:
    'Group A. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . Paraguay'




    'Group B. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . Algeria'




    'Group C. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . Iran'




    'Group D. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . Czech Republic'




    'Come on. Come on,' I whispered loudly. 'Group H, Group H, Group H'.
    But that was not to be,

    'Group E. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . PALESTINE'




    'Group F. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . Guatemala'




    'Group G. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . Ghana'




    'And finally, Group H. . .'
    Spoiler:
    ' . . . China'




    'China, the lucky so-and-sos,' I remarked. 'That could have easily been us. Damn!'

    So that concluded the end of the draw and we now knew who we would be up against in our first ever (and possibly last) World Cup Finals Spoiler:





    That draw just confirmed my prediction that we had no chance of even a win in this group. Russia and Portugal are, well, I don't need to say anything there. Morocco are the weakest team of the three but even they qualified without losing a game.
    I was looking forward to what would be MY first World Cup. I couldn't wait for our first game on Saturday 10th June, 2006 against Morocco.

    Bring on the World Cup!

  20. #20

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    Chapter 8 - Almost There

    Part II




    It was only 14 days until our first game in the 2006 World Cup and today I had to submit the 23-man squad. It was more a matter of who wasn't going to make it rather than who was as there were only 33 international players to choose from.

    Goalkeepers
    Only two goalkeepers were available - Al-Naasir and Al-Arabi. Al-Arabi is not good enough, even for this level; he is only there because there is no other professional international GK. I hope Al-Naasir doesn't get injured. Please, please!

    Defenders
    The first name here has to be the young Chilean-born defender Roberto Bishara. He has been immense in defence and a great leader for the team. Abusidu will be his partner with Yousef and Abuseleisel providing backup. Both Yousef and Abuseleisel have not performed well when called upon (both averaged below 7) but they are the best I have. Khojali and Bannon will be my first choice full-backs with Abuseleisel, Abusidu, Ashour and Al-Sehri being able to deputise. There will unfortunately be no place for 'the jewel', Al-Johar.

    Midfielders
    The biggest blow for the team is in the defensive midfield position. Palestine only have 3 recognisable DMCs. The best of them - Rabit Al-Harith - tore his cruciate knee ligaments in training and as a result will miss the World Cup. That means that I only have Keshkesh and Al-Kaw'reh in that position. I will almost certainly have to go with a different formation for many games as it would be very difficult to expect them to play 90 minutes of every match, especially in defensive midfield. In the rest of midfield, the only noticable absentee will be Musa Al-Jabar who only had one good game for Palestine anyway. The rest of the team picks itself.

    Attackers
    The main man up front will be Al-Mubarak - I'm hoping he will continue his excellent form of 11 goals in his last 17 games for Palestine. Kurtovic and Ammaar will provide the backup. Obaid or Attal will play the supporting role.

    This is the final 23-man squad for the World Cup Spoiler:



    I have had to go with experience with this selection, so the average age of the squad travelling to the World Cup is almost 28. It would have been a lot different had I been able to select the three young martyrs who were tragically killed by the Israelis. But we can't do anything about that now. I'm also looking forward to trying out my new formations for the World Cup.

    * * *

    It is Friday the 9th of June 2006 - our first ever World Cup game will be tomorrow against Morocco. I made sure that the Palestinian players went for their Friday prayers in a local mosque - we're going to need all the help we can possibly get. I didn't put the players through any difficult excercises that day, just enough to keep them on their toes for tomorrow. I wanted them to be fresh and ready for the biggest game of their lives.
    Later that evening, back at our hotel in a posh, affluent part of Mönchengladbach I made sure that the players were 'down for the night' before I went back to my cool hotel room on the second floor. How would we do against Morocco? This was going to be the deciding game for us. I couldn't see us getting through if we didn't pick up all three points against Morocco. Should I play the 4231 or the 4123 that I had used with Ferro in Argentina? Should I play Kaw-reh or Keshkesh in DMC? Or both? Attal or Obeid? I hope I knew the answers before tomorrow morning! All of these questions were circling in my head and it was almost 1 o'clock when I finally overcame the excitement of the next day and drifted off into a deep sleep.

  21. #21

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    NOTE: I apologise in advance for the long post and not covering the games in detail and the lack of screenshots. Please don't be disappointed. I WILL make up for it - I promise!


    Chapter 9 - Germany 2006

    Part I





    World Cup Group E vs Morocco
    Thursday 10th June 2006


    Formation: 4123
    Final Score: 2-0. Al-Mubarak (4,76)

    Manager's thoughts: Just the start to the tournament that we wanted. We went for an attacking 4123 formation and we won the must-win game thanks to a brace from MOM Al-Mubarak.

    * * *


    World Cup Group E vs Portugal
    Thursday 17th June 2006


    Formation: 4141
    Final Score: 3-3. Al-Mubarak (66,67), Attal (84)

    Manager's thoughts: A great comeback by the team. I employed a much-tried 4141 formaiton to combat the Portugease midfield. The game reminded me of the AC Milan-Liverpool game. Portugal had taken a 3-0 lead by half-time as Ronaldo ripped our midfield and defence apart with 2 assists and a goal. Portugal had 16 shots on target in the first half! The second half was dead. I think Portugal were saving their energy for the next game as they made all their substitutions at half-time. No-one created any chances. We were lucky to have just 3 chances and score from all of them. Attal headed in the equaliser with minutes left on the clock. A draw against Russia in the final game will take us through to the second round.

    * * *


    World Cup Group E vs Russia
    Thursday 22nd June 2006


    Formation: 41311
    Final Score: 1-0. Al-Mubarak (44)

    Manager's thoughts: I went with a 41311 in this game and it turned out to be a very open game. Both teams created chances but the 'keepers were on top form, their 'keeper edged the MOM award. Al-Mubarak made it 3 goals in 4 games with a superb volley just before half-time.

    * * *


    World Cup 2nd Round vs Uruguay
    Thursday 25th June 2006


    Formation: 41221
    Final Score: 2-1. Al-Mubarak (76), Al-Kaw'reh (84)

    Manager's thoughts: Another good comeback from the team as I went with a new 41221 formation. It was an even game but Uruguay had taken the advantage on 23 minutes when a great passing move ended in Forlan heading the ball past Al-Naasir. We tried and tried and tried in the second half until we were rewarded late on in the game when Al-Mubarak scored again before Al-Kaw'reh grabbed the winner! We were in the Quarter-finals!

    * * *


    World Cup Quarter-final vs England
    Thursday 30th June 2006


    Formation: 21412
    Final Score: 1-0. Al-Mubarak (2)

    Manager's thoughts: Before the game I met with some of the current players who had played for me whilst I managed in England - Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson and Shaun-Wright Phillips. Every one of them congratulated me on getting so far in the tournament. I thought to myself that it was an honour to just play against my home country so I gave my players the message to enjoy themselves before I sent them out onto the pitch. I gave Al-Fawaghra and Obaid the license to roam about the pitch and I told the full-backs to push forward when we had the ball. We were going to show the England players that we could play as well. I wanted to keep the performance as well as the scorline respectable.
    There is a famous saying that 'football is played on the pitch - not on paper' and it was so true in this game. As predicted, England started the game all guns blazing, passing the ball around the pitch with ease. In just the second minute of the game Gerrard passed the ball back to Glen Johnson on the half way line, who was under pressure from Al-Mubarak. As Johnson attempted to pass the ball back to Robert Green he slipped and Al-Mubarak stole the ball from him. I got out of my seat and was nearly on the pitch as the Luton player skipped past John Terry, outpaced Rio Ferdinand and hit a blistering drive to Green's left hand side which almost broke the back of the net. 1-0 to Palestine! To say that the England players were not expecting that would be the understatement of the century - they were truly shocked, as everyone watching the game was. My players passed the ball around well when they had it and the England players had no answers. They had more than 80% possession but they created no chances whatsoever until half-time. the second half was no different - England were absolutely clueless. This was not the England I was expecting to turn up. The second-half must have been the most boring half of football ever for the neutral. England kept possession but just could not get past our central defensive midfielders. They were playing the ball across the field from side to side without coming forward. Surely it was just a matter of time before they picked up their game, wasn't it? The answer to that was no. The minutes ticked by and my players did not set a foot wrong. Everyone was playing the ball simple. Short passing and then moving to collect the pass - simple. The final wistle blew and I was almost disappointed in the end by England's performance. But not for too long as I realised that Palestine were in the Semi-finals, yes the Semi-finals of the World Cup!

    * * *


    World Cup Semi-final vs Mexico
    Thursday 4th July 2006


    Formation: 4231
    Final Score: Spoiler:





    Player ratings: Spoiler:




    Manager's thoughts: In the end this was a comfortable game for us. We were 3-0 up after 66 minutes and cruised to victory just conceding 1 goal in the 88th minute. I could not believe it!
    Spoiler:



    We were going to play in the World Cup Final! I was a little bit upset that it was Scotland but I didn't care. In fact, we had a great chance of actually winning the World Cup now!

    * * *


    World Cup Final vs Scotland
    Thursday 6th July 2006

    Vs

    Olympiastadion, Berlin

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:





    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    The Game: This game will go down as THE best game in World Cup history. What a game! It started off quite calm - both teams feeling each other out without taking risks. Then the game came to life in the 8th minute when Bannon broke down the right and crossed in an inviting cross for Obaid to stab past the keeper.
    Goal for Palestine 1-0 to us. Things got better just six minutes later when the amazing Al-Salhi dribbled past two defenders and thundered in a low drive from the edge of the area past the captain, Gordon.
    Goal for Palestine 2-0 to Palestine in the World Cup Final! The game got better as Scotland started to push forward a lot more. They had chance after chance and were leaving gaps at the back. We took advantage of these gaps in the 35th minute when after a corner for Scotland broke down and we broke. Al-Salhi took the ball down the left flank unopposed. Then he turned inwards and played a ball to the right hand side where Bannon was arriving to control the ball and hit it into the back of the net from the edge of the penalty area.
    Goal for Palestine 3-0! What the **** was going on?!? I couldn't believe it. Palestine were 3-0 up in the World Cup Final! The game continued in the same way. Scotland attacked and attacked until they finally got their goal on 41 minutes. Shaun Maloney sent in a cross from the wing and the danger man Darren Fletcher was there to head in for Scotland and give them some hope before half time.
    Goal for Scotland 3-1. The first half ended with the score at 3-1. I brought my players in and made sure that they still had their heads on their shoulders for the second half. They were playing superbly in the Final of the World Cup and I just told the players to give me more of the same. We couldn't sit back - Scotland would take advantage easily.

    The second half started with Scotland on the front foot. I had told my players to push forward but they were being forced back by a sea of blue. My players could not get out of their own penalty area. on 50 minutes, Pearson picked up the ball in central midfield and played a one-two with Fletcher on the edge of the penalty area and smacked a long-range hopeful effort towards the goal, which curled and took our 'keeper by surprise and flew into the top corner.
    Goal for Scotland 3-2. Damn it lads! Come on! Play like you were doing before I thought. But Scotland kept pushing and pushing and pushing. Then, just 4 minutes later, Fletcher picked the ball up and this time played a one-two with Pearson before side-stepping Bishara on the edge of the area. He went past him and side-footed the ball past Al-Arabi in goal.
    Goal for Scotland 3-3!!! What the ****! Bloody Hell! How did we loose our 3 goal lead!?! 'Come on lads!' I shouted onto the pitch pointing with my fingers towards my head. 'Think! Don't panic! Keep going!' Now it was Scotland's turn to take their foot off the gas. They sat back and allowed us to play through them and around them. We took the advantage again on 61 minutes when Al-hindi rose at the back post to head in from a corner.
    Goal for Palestine 4-3. And there was still half an hour to play! The game continued with both teams pushing forward. I made sure that we weren't sitting back this time. I just hoped that the game would die out now. But I was wrong. In the 84th minute, we got a corner. Al-Salhi whipped in a cross which was cut out at the front post. Scotland broke! Morrison and McNaughton interchanged passes before sending Pearson down the middle one-on-one with the keeper. 'Come on Al-Arabi. This is your chance to impress me.' Did he impress me? Did he ****! He went down straight away on the edge of the area which left Pearson with an open goal to tap the ball into.
    Goal for Scotland 4-4! And there were only a few minutes left now. This game was on the edge. After more than 80 minutes, we were level again. Both teams were still attacking. There was still chance after chance. There's no way the players could play this way in extra time I thought - they would be too tired. The fourth official indicated 5 minutes of injury time at the end of the game. 'Where did he get that from?' I thought. I can't blame him for wanting this game to continue, who wouldn't? Then, in the 3rd minute of stoppage time Obaid received the ball on the edge of the area and sent it out wide for Bannon to cross into the box. As the cross came in, I rose from my seat (as did the rest of my staff). The ball made its way to the back post where Al-Mubarak controlled it on his chest before allowing it to fall down. Then he scuffed a shot which squirmed under Gordon. The ball was slowly rolling towards the line before Gordon jumped onto it. But had it gone past the line? My players were running towards the assistant referee claiming that the ball had gone over the line. Gordon stood there with the ball in his hand. I couldn't make out whether he knew if it was a goal or not. The rest of the Scotland players were obviously claiming that it wasn't a goal. The referee also made his way towards his assistant where 8 Palestinian players were surounding the man with the flag. The referee told the players to go away whilst he consulted. 94 minutes had already passed and we weren't going to get much of a game after this I thought. The World Cup Final would be decided on the decision of an assistant!! They seemed to be taking ages. Everyone was standing in anticipation, hoping for the best. We were biting our fingers off on the touchline. Come on! Come on! They seemed to be talking for ages. Did the ball cross the line or not? A few seconds later the referee made his decision: Spoiler:
    GOAL FOR PALESTINE 5-4 to Palestine! The Palestinian fans went mental, the players went mental, I went mental! We were winning 5-4 in the final of the World Cup with about a minute of injury time still left to play. Surely we were going to do it now weren't we? Al-Mubarak had completed the improbable - scoring in EVERY game of the World Cup. But there was still time for another goal in the game. Al-Salhi capped a superb performance by completing his hat-trick, after which the final whistle went and we were in dreamland!




    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Just to confirm: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: Palestine have just won the World Cup. . . do I need to say more?

    * * *




    It has been a few months since Palestine won the World Cup. I resigned a few days after winning and now I am standing in front of the Queen in a quiet Buckhingham Palace, London on a warm, clear January afternoon. I was about to be knighted for my services to football in England and obviously abroad. 'Arise, Sir Michael Champ-Man' I was speechless as the title rung in my head again and again and again. 'Sir Michael CM'
    'Sir Michael CM'
    'Sir Michael CM'
    'Sir Michael CM' . . .


    Spoiler:
    Stay tuned. The story is NOT over yet



  22. #22

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    Chapter 9 - Germany 2006

    Part II



    It has been a few months since Palestine won the World Cup. I resigned a few days after winning the world cup and now I am standing in front of the Queen in a quiet Buckhingham Palace, London on a warm, clear January afternoon. I was about to be knighted for my services to football in England and obviously abroad. 'Arise, Sir Michael CM' I was speechless as the title rung in my head again and again and again. 'Sir Michael Champ-Man'
    'Sir Michael CM'
    'Sir Michael CM'
    'Sir Michael CM' . . .


    * * *


    'Mikaeel CM!'
    'Sir!'
    'Mikaeel CM!'
    'Sir!'
    'Mikaeel CM!' Wake ub! Wake ub! You will be late if you don't get ub now!
    'What?!' I mumbled as I shielded my eyes from the bright sun that was pouring in through the window. 'What? Where? Who? We? World . . .Cup . . . final . . . Scotland . . . Al-Salhi hat-trick . . . the Queen. . . knighthood. . .'
    I could not put together a sentence as I slowly realised what had happened. Birdy was standing a few feet away from the foot of the bed, trying to understand what I was saying.
    'What are you saying Mikaeel?' he asked. 'I have no idea what you are trying to tell me. It is 9am and we need to get to the training bitch to brebare for the game today'
    'What game?' I asked, still slightly baffled.
    'The game against Morocco of course,' he replied. 'What else?'
    'Let me get this straight,' I said. 'It's 9 o'clock and it's the 10th of June?'
    'Yes Mikaeel. Where have you been and what have you been thinking?'
    'I just had the weirdest of dreams,' I said. 'I dreamt that we won the World Cup'
    'Ha ha! Nice,' he exclaimed. 'Even in my dreams Balestine don't get further than the groub stage! Who did we blay in the final in your dream?'
    'erm, Scotland,' I replied, now fully awake and trying to look at the funny side of things. 'Actually I should have known it was a dream - Scotland were in the final!'
    'Ha ha ha!' Anyway, get ready quickly Mikaeel, the coach will be leaving for the ground in 15 minutes.
    'OK,' I said, jumping out of bed and rushing in the direction of the shower with a Germany 2006 towel in one hand and shampoo in the other. 'I'll be there in 15 minutes.'

    * * *


    We were on the coach travelling to the ground - me, Birdy, the coaching staff and the players. The excitement of the big day was starting to overcome me now as I started to get over my dream. It was so real and I remember all of the details of the games. I bet the other people 'watching' it thought it was real as well!
    'I now know exactly the formation I'll be using,' I said turning to Birdy. 'And the players I'll be picking.'
    'About time too,' snapped Birdy. 'You were beginning to worry me. So, will it be the 4231 or the 4123? Attal or Obaid? And how did you decide?'
    'Let's just say that I had a vision,' I chuckled. 'I have a feeling that we'll do well with this formation against the Moroccans. Trust me.'
    'It's your call boss,' he replied. 'I hope it does go well. Because if we don't do well I'd hate to see the faces of the Balestinian Board when you tell them that you based your tactics on a dream!'
    'It's not going to make much of a difference anyway,' I said. 'It's not as if we have a team that can win the World Cup. At least not whilst I'm awake!'
    'I think we can show the world what we Balestinians are made of Mikaeel,' said Birdy.
    'I hope so,' I replied as our coach pulled into the stadium car park.

    * * *


    After a short break and a tactics and line-up briefing we went out onto the Borussia-Park pitch for a warm-up before the game. The ground was nearly full - they were expecting 60,000 people here! We did some excersises on our side of the pitch as the Moroccans did theirs on their side. We didn't have any sort of a history between us - we had not played against them under me so I wasn't sure what to expect. After the warm-up I led my players back into the dressing room with 10 minutes left until the kick-off. My first game in the World Cup is just 10 minutes away now. I can't wait . . .



    Spoiler:
    I GOT YOU ALL! HA HA HA!

    Did no-one read the first line in my last post? I did say I'd make it up to you.
    I was never going to end the story like that - that's not me. I'll do the job properly right until the very end!

    I thought some people might have realised (Palestine winning the World Cup? Scotland in the final?) but obviously I played it too well! I just hope I haven't driven away some people from my story


    And once again:


    Regards,
    Red9

  23. #23

    Join Date
    18-12-11
    Location
    Dresden
    Posts
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    Chapter 9 - Germany 2006

    Part III






    World Cup Group E vs Morocco
    Saturday 10th June 2006



    Vs

    Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:








    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I was undecided between 4231 and 4123 so in the end I decided that I would take some inspiration from my dream and go with the more attacking option. This was a must-win game for us so I gave Obaid and Al-Fawaghra the license to push forward and support Al-Mubarak when we were in possession. I opted for Al-Amour on the left wing and Kaw'reh as the holding midfielder. The centre-back pairing was the excellent Bishara alongside Abusidu. The biggest and riskiest change came in goal where I decided I would go with Al-Arabi instead of Al-Naasir. Al-Naasir had brought us through the entire qualifying campaign and he was looking very very poor towards the end of it. I'm not one for picking players because of their past achievements - I want the best now and Al-Arabi had been improving immensely over the last few months and was my first choice even in training. Needless to say, Al-Naasir was a bit p***ed of at losing his place now. But, it's not my fault he hasn't been performing well lately!

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: We were a bit lucky in this one. We can win the World Cup with this kind of luck! 5 shots on goal and 5 goals! To say that their 'keeper had a nightmare would be putting it lightly! Morocco had started off well and stormed into a 2-0 lead after just 17 minutes. But then my players woke up - Al-Azeezi was brilliant on the right and Bannon on the left. Kaw'reh did an amazing job against the greatest threat - Aissati, who played the game in Kaw'reh's back pocket until he was substituted just after half-time. We scored with every shot - Al-Mubarak with a looping header from Bannon's cross, Al-Azeezi with a shot from the edge of the area which squirmed through the 'keeper's hands, Abusidu's tap-in after the 'keeper had dropped the ball following a corner and Bannon's two identical blistering strikes from 25 yards inside left position. The 'keeper's game got worse (or better, depending on how you see it!) on 77 minutes when he was stretchered off after colliding with a team-mate but it was too late by that stage.
    We've won the first game comfortably in the end but this was always going to be the easiest of our games. I don't expect us scoring 5 in the rest of the tournament combined. Next up - Portugal.

    MOM, Spoiler:




    * * *

  24. #24

    Join Date
    18-12-11
    Location
    Dresden
    Posts
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    Chapter 9 - Germany 2006

    Part IV






    World Cup Group E vs Portugal
    Saturday 17th June 2006


    Vs

    Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:








    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I decided to 'follow my dream' and go with my 41311 which I had used in Germany before in my career. I had also used it against Japan and Norway for short periods and it had worked very well defensively in those games. I needed to have as many bodies in midfield as possible to combat the threat from the Portugease.

    Result: Spoiler:





    Match Stats: Spoiler:





    Manager's thoughts: I'm pleased with the performance - the stats don't tell you the whole story. Portigal did have 13 shots on target but (thanks to the formation) 11 of those were from outside the penalty area and my 'keeper Al-Arabi had a great game between the sticks. I was disappointed with the midfield players as they were largely over-run but my centre-back paring were always in the right place at the right time to cut out any threat on goal. We would have held out for a comfortable draw were it not for the huge amount of raw talent out on show. Bosingwa and Nani played brilliantly on their sides of the pitch and it was their combination that led to the goal on 81 minutes. Pepe came out with the ball and played it wide for Bosingwa to run onto. He strode forward and crossed it low towards the edge of the penalty area where Nani was waiting. He controlled it on his chest with his back towards goal, then turned and hit a blistering left-foot shot which beat the otherwise immense Al-Arabi to his right. The 91,000 fans went wild. It was a goal worthy of winning any game!
    The defeat left us on 3 points from two games. Portugal were top on 6 points and Russia and Morocco had 1 point each. Russia are our final group game and we need to get a draw from this game to go through thanks to Morocco holding Russia to a draw.

    MOM, Nani Spoiler:





    * * *

  25. #25

    Join Date
    18-12-11
    Location
    Dresden
    Posts
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    Chapter 9 - Germany 2006

    Part V






    This is how things stand going into the final game of the group stage:

    Code:

    P W D L GD PTS Portugal 2 2 0 0 +2 6 Palestine 2 1 0 1 +2 3 Russia 2 0 1 1 -1 1 Morocco 2 0 1 1 -3 1
    So, Palestine just need to avoid defeat against Russia to qualify for Round 2 of the World Cup.


    World Cup Group E vs Russia
    Saturday 22nd June 2006


    Vs

    RheinEnergieStadion, Koln

    Line-ups and formations: Spoiler:








    Player we need to watch out for: Spoiler:





    Palestine team news: I went with the same team that lost 1-0 against Portugal. There was one major difference - the ever-present Banon at left-back was replaced due to injury by Al-Sehri. I also decided to play a more attacking style than I did against Portugal. I don't think we can hold out the Russians if we just sit back.

    The Game: Both teams started off passing the ball around the pitch well. We played well until we got to the final third of the pitch where we couldn't create any chances. 29 minutes into an intense, fast game, Arshavin received the ball on the half-way line. Azeezi went to meet him but he dived in too early and Arshavin just skipped past him with ease. He continued down the right flank unchallenged as my defenders were unwilling to get drawn in too early. When he was level with the penalty area, he passed the ball towards the centre of the pitch where Dmitry Sychev was arriving. He caught the ball sweetly with a superb left-foot drive that my defenders could do nothing about. Al-Arabi managed to stop it from going into the bottom corner with a superb save but it fell to Denisov. He just calmly stroked it past the stranded Al-Arabi and into the net to start the Russian fans roaring with delight.
    GOAL FOR RUSSIA!!!. It was 1-0 to Russia but they needed another goal thanks to our superior goal difference. Russia pushed on and created chance after chance but Abusidu was brilliant in defense and Al-Arabi was even better with dealing with whatever got past him. At half-time the score was 1-0. I brought the players into the dressing room and started my teamtalk. 'You're doing OK lads. I'm proud of you. But we need to push forward a bit more to keep Arshavin and co quite,' the players were listening with great concentration to every word I said. 'Azeezi, you're coming off. You've done well but this hasn't been your best game.' He was replaced by Keshkesh - a more defensive player to take care of Arshavin.
    The players started the second half well. I could see the improvements due to the introduction of Keshkesh - Arshavin was very very quite in the first 10 minutes of the second half. We created 4 good goal-scoring opportunities in those first 10 minutes. First, Bishara had a header saved on the line from a corner, then Al-Sehri saw his shot go just wide from the rebound. Minutes later Al-Amour and Keshkesh were denied by last-minute tackles by the Russian defenders.
    The game levelled out after those first 10 minutes. Both teams created half chances without really threatening. It was still 1-0 which meant that as the game drew to its close the next goal would be the decider. If Russia scored it we would be out of the World Cup and if we scored it we would be through to the next round! Nail-biting stuff.
    Then, on 84 minutes, the deciding goal was scored . . .

    * * *

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