MALE: Jibril Rajoub hailed the “greatest day in the history of Palestinian sport” after the national team beat Philippines 1-0 in the Maldives in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup.
Rajoub is president of both the Palestinian Football Federation and the national Olympic committee.
Back in Ramallah, on the West Bank, the match was shown on giant screens and victory prompted a jubilant celebrations.
A free-kick from tournament leading scorer Ashraf Al Fawaghra a minute before the hour mark at the National Stadium saw 2012 semi-finalists Palestine edge out the Philippines 1-0 to complete an unbeaten campaign.
The winners of the fifth Challenge Cup were always due to secure the 16th and final berth at the Asian Cup. Thus Palestine will join defending champions Japan, Jordan and Iraq in Group D.
“This was a historic match and a historic achievement,” said former Jordan international Jamal Mahmoud, who was appointed in 2011 and guided Palestine to their first-ever win at the WAFF Championship after beating Lebanon 1-0 in Kuwait City during the 2012 edition of the tournament.
“We had experience in the last Challenge Cup when we made mistakes and we took that experience for this championship.
“We had many players who could not come with us this time due to problems, but we hope they can come with us to Australia. We need to make more training camps and more tough friendly matches before the Asian Cup.”
Palestine topped Group A after wins over Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar and a draw with hosts Maldives.
In 2012 Palestine lost to eventual champions North Korea in the semi-finals before losing the third place play-off to Philippines. The final was won by SAFF champions Afghanistan.