'Jerusalem is ours': This week in Middle East football

'Jerusalem is ours': This week in Middle East football
Jerusalem has been the focus for many in the Middle East this week - and the same was true in the world of football, writes Uri Levy.
4 min read
15 Dec, 2017
"We are with you 90 minutes, with Quds (Jerusalem) forever" [Twitter]
Jerusalem has been all over the news since United States President Donald Trump declared the US would recognise the city as Israel's capital, and assured his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

Trump's speech made headlines worldwide, so it should be of no surprise that it's been front page news across the Middle East. As expected, protests took place in cities across the region - but in an unexpected turn, the discontent even spread to football pitches, where a clear message was sent about the city, Palestine and Israel.

It started on Thursday, a day after Trump's declaration, in the Algiers derby. One of Mouloudia Algeirs' most notable players - Abderrahim Hachoud - scored a beauty and immediately displayed an undershirt with a map of Palestine and the phrase "Jerusalem is Palestine's eternal capital".

In Turkey, Jerusalem gestures were seen in every league, after an official call by the TFF - the Turkish Football Federation. In addition, Istanbul Başakşehir fans proudly stretched a huge banner: "We are with you 90 minutes, with [al-]Quds forever," together with an image of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
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In Iraq, Hammadi Ahmed, the star of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and the national team, scored a goal before showing off a t-shirt with the sign "القدس لنا” – "Jerusalem's ours".

In Lebanon, Nejmeh from Beirut gathered for the team's traditional pregame photo wearing traditional Palestinian kuffiyah scarfs and bearing a large flag.

These gestures also expanded to Europe, where Scottish Celtic fans made it clear what they thought about the whole story, and South America, where Palestino from Chile were also endorsing the protests.

FIFA is reportedly planning to investigate steps against any kind of mixing politics and football, saying it is against the federation's rules to take a political stance in football grounds.  

Amoory: Where next?

It is this time of year again. Omar Abd al-Rahman has six months left on his contract with Al-Ain, and the rumours are flying.

After the Asian Awards ceremony, Amoory granted a rare interview, and declared that his dream was to play in Europe - adding that he drew much inspiration from Liverpool star Mohammed Salah.

The rumour mill quickly kicked into action. Everton, Fenerbahce and Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal were all named as potential destinations for the Emirates magician, who at almost 26 years of age is starting to look for a bigger stage upon which to ply his trade and show his talent.

Next summer is critical for Amoory. If he moves to Europe, we may finally discover whether he is really made of the stuff of legends. If he stays in the Gulf? We will probably never know, and we'll be left with a sense of a terribly missed opportunity.

The surprising Gulf

Only a few days after lifting the ban on the Kuwait Football Association, FIFA has approved the return of the 2017 Gulf Cup to the country - instead of Qatar, who decided to let go of the tournament which had been granted to it after Kuwait's ban.

The competition will take place from December 22, and will host eight teams in two groups. Group A will contain Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman (who all returned to the competition after withdrawing from it when it was planned to take place in Qatar), while Group B will feature Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain and Yemen - who will aspire to bring some happiness to the war-torn country.

Al-Jazira: Pride of the Arab world?

Watch: Ali Khasif's show-stopping saves for
Al-Jazira against Real Madrid [FootballVidzHD]

The Club World Cup is taking part in the UAE, as the confederations' champions play each other in FIFA's club competition.

Al-Jazira, the Emirati champion, who won a ticket to the competition by being the champion of the hosting country, is actually doing rather well.

After they beat Auckland City 1-0 in last week's playoff, they knocked down Urawa Red Diamonds, the champions of Asia who just defeated Al-Hilal in the Asian final.

Al-Jazira went on to face the mighty Real Madrid in the competition's semi-finals. It has long been the dream of Sheikh Mansour, Jazira's owner, to bring the world's most famous football club to the Emirates. And in the end, the giants were nearly humbled by the local side, scraping a narrow 2-1 victory after 31 shots on goal and some world-class goalkeeping by Ali Khasif.

In the other quarter final, African champions Wydad Casablanca lost to Mexican Pachuca, the champions of North Central America, and were eliminated from the competition.

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here