Palestine to replace Thailand in Olympic Qualifying?
FA President Jibril Rajoub alongside Olympic Team captain, Mustafa Abu Kweik and Manager Mokhtar "The Dinosaur" Al-Talili.
[UPDATE]: The Bangkok Post has confirmed the story. The Thai FA is appealing the decision.
For the past week or so there have been reports in the Palestinian media that Thailand had been suspended from Olympic qualifying for fielding ineligible players. For whatever reason, the AFC, the Thai FA have been mum on the issue so we are reluctant to declare this anything more than a rumor at this point.
The Gulf Daily News is now also reporting that Palestine will replace Thailand in the second round. If true, then the Olympic Team will face Bahrain over two legs, on June 19th and June 23rd. The location of both matches are up in the air, with Bahrain insisting once again they will not travel to the West Bank. For their part, Palestine could also protest playing in a country where 1 out of every 550 Bahrainis is now a political prisoner.
The interesting twist to this argument is whether or not we would want the distraction of an Olympic Qualifier in the same month our World Cup campaign kicks off. There are a couple of players who are on the brink of breaking into the senior squad. The three players that come to mind are Hicham Ali, Abdelhamid Abuhabeeb, and Eyad Abugharqud. It will be interesting to see what the coaches decide to with these players as it is a virtual impossibility to include them in both squads.
Abuhabeeb has been so dominant in the WBPL this season that I would not be surprised to see him force Suleiman Obeid out of the squad. Hicham Ali's versatility, his ability to keep possession, and the fact that he can track back and help out on that problematic left flank would also make him a welcome addition the national team. Eyad Abugharqud would be the easiest sacrifice seeing as how Murad Alyan, Ahmed Keshkesh, and Fahed Attal are ahead of him in the pecking order.