A history of sorts was created when Palestine’s national football team surpassed arch-enemy Israel in FIFA rankings released on Thursday, moving up to 82nd place – its best ever.
Israel, on the other hand, plummeted 16 places to the 98th position, its worst-ever FIFA ranking, after a dismal performance in the World Cup qualifiers.
The upgrade in FIFA rankings also saw Coach Abdel Nasser Barakat’s team rise two spots to the 11the position, missing Asia’s top 10 by a single spot.
Palestine has had a dream Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers in Group D with five wins to their credit, including a 10-0 thrashing of Bhutan, with one qualifying match still to play before the Finals in the UAE in January, next year.
According to a FIFA brief, the Palestinian team’s rise has been increasingly impressive ever since its historic 2015 debut in the Asian Football Confederation Asia cup.
“It’s a great performance by Palestine, but we need to back it up by continuing to work. We want to end the Asian Cup qualifiers as we started. It’s important for the team before the draw for the finals,” the 41-year-old coach told FIFA.
The announcement comes as music to Palestinian ears as the country’s football association continues its campaign against several Israeli clubs that are located in occupied West Bank settlements, urging FIFA to take action against the Israeli Football Association. It must be mentioned that settlements are deemed illegal under the international law.
FIFA’s refusal to intervene in the matter last month has attracted much criticism from the Palestinians who have accused the Federation of relenting under Israeli pressure.
Speaking to AFP on Thursday, Head of the Palestine Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, said that the Palestine football team’s improved FIFA ranking is a “historic achievement” despite Israeli interference and restrictions in the occupied territories.
“With this classification, we have defeated the occupation’s measures and its daily harassment, from preventing the freedom of movement of athletes through to all measures that impede Palestinian sport,” he stated.
Meanwhile, according to the Israeli Football Association, the country’s sports minister has ordered the formation of a committee to examine the reasons for Israel’s disastrous World Cup qualification campaign.
“We wish the Palestinians all the best as always,” said a magnanimous IFA spokesman.
He also said that Israel was willing to play a friendly match against the Palestinian team anytime. “May the best team win,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran maintains its top position in the Asian rankings as they move up two places to the 32nd spot.
By virtue of its FIFA World Cup 2018 Play-off wins over Syria and Honduras, Australia has improved its ranking from 43rd to the 39th spot.
While Japan is the third highest ranked team in Asia, it has dropped 11 places to the 55th position in the FIFA rankings.
South Korea moves up three places to stand at the 59th spot, while their northern enemy, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea moves up 18 places to reach number 114 in the rankings.
China slides down three places to number 60 from its previously held 57th position; Saudi Arabia holds on to its 63rd position; and at the 135th spot, Chinese Taipei is the second Asian team to achieve its best-ever FIFA ranking.
Lebanon has been ranked 87th – up by 13 places and Indonesia at number 154 has improved upon its previous ranking by 11.
The top five teams in the latest FIFA rankings area:
Teams that have qualified for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018
- REPUBLIC OF KOREA
- SAUDI ARABIA
NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN
- COSTA RICA
- AMERICAN SAMOA
- COOK ISLANDS
- NEW CALEDONIA
- NEW ZEALAND
- PAPUA NEW GUINEA
- SOLOMON ISLANDS