Ali El-Khatib during his trial at Hapoel Haifa
[UPDATE 01/28/2012]: Ali El-Khatib made his debut against Maccabi Netanya coming off the bench in the second half.
Ali El-Khatib has caused quite a stir this season. The 22 year-old winger has been nothing short of superlative on the pitch- representing Palestine in Olympic and World Cup qualifying and scoring the match-winning goals against Bahrain and Sudan. Off the pitch, it has been no less eventful for the youngster. In the past six months he:
- Signed with Hilal Al-Quds, scoring on his debut in the Super Cup.
- Scored on his league debut and is later sent off, receiving a 4-month ban.
- After serving out his ban, plays only one additional game garnering $24,000 in wages (according to Hilal Al-Quds)
- Misses top of the table clash against Shabab Al-Khaleel. El-Khatib claims this was due to his wedding being on the same day. Hilal Al-Quds claims the player was paid off by former manager Samer Eissa to throw the match.
- El-Khatib further reveals that he was kidnapped and beaten by thugs hired by Hilal's Chairman Abdel-Qader El-Khatib (no relation) who forced him to sign papers altering his financial compensation.
- After Hilal Al-Quds decides to suspend the player for the rest of the season- the PFA intercedes on his behalf, terminating his contract.
- El-Khatib signs a four and a half year contract with his former club Jabal Al-Mukaber. Reuniting with Samer Eissa, who himself had been let go by Shabab Al-Khaleel.
El-Khatib made his first appearance of the season last week in Jabal Al-Mukaber in their 2-1 win over Thaqafi Tulkarem so news of his imminent move to Hapoel Haifa comes as a surprise. The crux of the disagreement stems from the fact that players arriving from the Israeli league are issued separate Palestinian registration cards. It appears that when Ali El-Khatib moved from Hapoel Shfaram to Jabal Al-Mukaber as a teenager the formal paperwork to obtain his card was not completed.
According to Bokra, Ali El-Khatib made the move after consulting with PFA President Jibril Rajoub and his IFA counterpart, Avi Luzon. El-Khatib claims that Rajoub wished him luck in his future endeavors while Luzon vowed to help him achieve his ambition of playing in Europe even insinuating a possible appearance for the Israeli National Team to help expedite the process. In a parting salvo, El-Khatib did himself no favors by comparing the WBPL to an amateur league and stated that it did not match his ambition.
Hapoel Haifa and Jabal Al-Mukaber might take the matter up with FIFA and CAS and both clubs have grounds in claiming rights to the player (Although Ali El-Khatib told Bokra he did not sign a contract with Jabal Al-Mukaber). A decision by either of these bodies could end up creating some important precedents: Palestinian sides might be forced to deal with the IFA in obtaining the registration of players they want to sign. Or it could create a situation similar to that of Ireland where players born in Northern Ireland are eligible to represent the Republic.