With the first two weeks of WBPL action in the books let's take a look at the main talking points so far:
Status quo unchanged:
Last season finished with Al-Am'ary and Hilal Al-Quds joint top with Dhahrieh and Balata rounding out the top 4. Incidentally, that's the exact order of the top four two weeks into the 2011/12 season. It seems that many teams are still coming together after a slew of changes in the offseason, the most prominent example being Shabab Al-Khaleel. The Hebronites have added last season's top scorer Eyad Abugharqud and Palestine's second all time goal scorer Fahed Attal but have only managed two goals through two games.
PFA not hesitant in handing out fines:
It seems the PFA is adamant that the WBPL be a haven for good, positive play from the fans and players alike. On an individual level Ali El-Khatib is being fined $282 and will miss 4 matches after getting himself sent off against Jabal Al-Mukaber in the opener. There were minor fines handed out for what amounted to dangerous or negative play. Four players from Thaqafi Tulkarem who had received yellow cards were given $14 fines, they include:
Muath Mustafa, Fadi Hasasneh, Hassan Barhosh, & Abdullah Al-Tabl.
As expected, there was action taken to punish fans who threw projectiles onto the field during the Balata-Al-Bireh match. Both teams will lose two home games and have been fined $700.
The most surprising fines were handed out for "negative group chanting directed at the opposing team". I'm not sure what was said to merit a $700 fine but I don't think the FA should be attempting to silence the most vocal fans in the WBPL. Palestinian supporters are overwhelmingly positive, the banter amongst supporter groups is mostly civil as they know each other from following the national team. It is a situation not dissimilar from the one in Major League Soccer where the success of the American national team preceded the formation of a professional league.
Young keepers struggling:
There has been a concerted effort to find a successor to Ramzi Saleh in goal. Luckily for the National Team, Saleh is only 31 and has many years of football left in him because Toufic Ali, Mohammed Shbair, and Fahed Al-Fakhuri haven't exactly impressed this season. Shbair hasn't been horrible, he does after all, have a clean sheet to his name. But the goal he let in against Al-Bireh was soft. Shbair does this thing (he did it against Thailand when they scored on a free kick) where he stares at the ball almost wishing for it to go out instead of making an intervention. He's only 24, so hopefully he'll learn from these mistakes and become a better keeper.
Fahed Al-Fakhuri let up four goals against a Jabal Al-Mukaber side that just lost 4-0 the previous week. Obviously not all the goals were his fault but you really can't be considered the goalkeeper of the future and be leaking goals left and right.
Toufic Ali had a HORRIBLE game against Hilal Al-Quds. I am beginning to think that the only reason he is held in such high regard is because he's well over two meters tall. Instinctually, Ali just lacks a certain something. He let Murad Alyan free kick go in despite the fact that it wasn't hit with any particular pace and then flapped at a non-threatening cross which resulted in Maen Jamal's winning goal.
To put it simply, if I were the new manager I would lift Abduallah Al-Saidawi's suspension from the national team. He isn't as good as Ramzi Saleh- but he is definitely the best GK in the WBPL, it isn't even close. The PFA should also keep an eye on Samir Badr- a 19 year-old Palestinian American playing for FC Porto's reserves. It's a little early to start thinking about Ramzi Saleh's successor but its better to err on the side of caution. Badr is already part of the United States setup but he could fall through the cracks due to the sheer amount of competition he faces to break into the senior side. Tim Howard, at 32, is showing no signs of slowing down his backup, Brad Guzan (27), is his presumptive successor. Making Badr's task more difficult are the slew of good keepers in MLS and the fact that Klinsmann has picked DC United's Bill Hamid as his goalkeeping pet project.
WBPL Team of the Week (Week 2)*:
GK: Fahed Helseh (Jabal Al-Mukaber)
D: Adham Abu Rweis (Balata), Mustafa Abu Kweik (Al-Bireh), Murad Ismail (Hilal Al-Quds), Bashar Abu Nijmeh (Shabab Al-Khaleel)
M: Atef Abu Bilal (Dhahrieh), Thaer Qaraeen (Jabal Al-Mukaber), Mahmoud Awdeh (Al-Bireh), Ismail Amour (Al-Am'ary)
F: Murad Alyan (Hilal Al-Quds), Said Al-Sobakhi (Wadi Al-Nes)
Best Manager: Ayoub Jaber (Jabal Al-Mokaber)
Best Sub: Ahsan Sadeq (Balata)
*As selected by the fans on Kooora.com