This article was published in the November issue of Sports Tribune Magazine
Palestine were the highest ranked side leading upto the 2018 Bangabandhu Gold Cup and they lived up to their billing, clinching the title against Tajikistan in the grand finale.
Ranked 99th in the Fifa ranking as of November 1, Palestine had a smooth ride to the final, beating Tajikistan and Nepal 2-0 and 1-0 respectively, before beating host Bangladesh 2-0 in the semi-final.
They encountered their first real test in the final, against plucky Tajikistan, who put up a brave fight despite being reduced to 10 men in the 36th minute when their captain Fatukhulloev Fatkhullo received his marching orders.
Tajikistan held on during the entirety of the 90 minutes, and the added 30 minutes, thanks largely down to their goalkeeper Rizoev Rustam, who made some brilliant saves to keep Palestine at bay.
With the score locked at 0-0, the game entered the lottery of penalties and two outstanding saves from Palestine keeper Rami Hamada ensured the war-torn nation would have the last laugh as they prevailed 4-3 on penalties.
This was Palestine’s third ever international title and their success once again showed that hard work and sheer determination can conquer just about any obstacle.
Most of the Palestinian players ply their trade in the West Bank League but they face a lot of difficulty earning their daily bread and butter.
The Palestinian footballers are often detained for hours by the Israeli forces while traveling to games and as a result, they have to depart several hours before a match.
Sometimes, it gets much worse.
One of the Palestinian booters, forward Sameh Maraaba had to spend eight months in jail in 2014 just because he chose football as a profession.
The Palestinian players however, only grow from strength to strength in the face of the Israeli restrictions as they bid to realise their dream of representing their country on the global stage.
And it does not get any bigger than the Asian Cup, which, after the World Cup, is the most prestigious competition for the Asian countries, much like the Uefa Euro Championship for the European nations.
Palestine treated the Bangabandhu Gold Cup as part of their preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE, where they have been drawn in Group B alongside reigning champion Australia, formidable Syria and Jordan, and this success will no doubt serve them in good stead leading upto Asia’s marquee competition.
As far as the home side are concerned, they met their target of reaching the last four but the well built and technically superior Palestinian players proved to be a class above in the semis.
One glaring positive for Bangladesh was Biplo Ahmed, who was adjudged the best young player of the tournament.
Bangladesh also received the fair play trophy and it is safe to say that the hosting of the six-nation tournament was a grand success.
Played in three stadiums across the country – Sylhet, Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka – the Bangabandhu Gold Cup was more often than not witnessed by full houses and for the first time in five editions, all the participating teams sent their senior side.
GROUP STAGE RESULTS
BANGLADESH 1 (Biplo 60) 0 LAOS
NEPAL 0 2 TAJIKISTAN (Fatkhuloev 27-P, Tursunov 69)
PHILIPPINES 3 (Bedic 43-P, Gayoso 53, Misagh 81-P) 1 LAOS (Hikaru 88-P)
TAJIKISTAN 0 2 PALESTINE (Cantillana 1, Bahdari 75)
BANGLADESH 0 1 PHILIPPINES (Daniels 24)
PALESTINE 1 (Khaled 70) 0 NEPAL
TAJIKISTAN 2 (Komron 32, Nazarov 90+7) 0 PHILIPPINES
PALESTINE 2 (Balah 3, Marababaa 93) 0 BANGLADESH
PALESTINE 0 0 TAJIKISTAN
Palestine won 4-2 on penalties
ROLL OF HONOUR
Year Winner Runners up
1997 Malaysia Makassarar
1999 Japan Ghana
2015 Malaysia Bangladesh
2016 Nepal Bahrain
2018 Palestine Tajikistan
Teams P W D L GD Pts
Palestine (Q) 2 2 0 0 3 6
Tajikistan (Q) 2 1 0 1 0 3
Nepal (E) 2 0 0 2 -3 0
Teams P W D L GD Pts
Philippines (Q) 2 2 0 0 3 6
Bangladesh (Q)2 1 0 1 0 3
Laos (E) 2 0 0 2 -3 0
Q – Qualified for semi-finals
E - Eliminated
Did you know?
The Bangabandhu Gold Cup success was Palestine's third ever international title in history.
Player of the final – Rami Hamada (Palestine)
Top-scorer - Tursunov Komron (Tajikistan)
Player of the tournament - Abdallatif Albahdari (Palestine)
Fair play trophy – Bangladesh
Best young player - Biplo Ahmed (Bangladesh)