Guest contribution by Nader Ihmoud
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah’s father Yannik is a famous French tennis player who also played soccer at the international level. The elder Noah played in a rather historic international match between the Palestinian national team and a French club on October 8, 1993, according to One Hundred Years of Football in Palestine, authored by Issam Khalidi.
In the book that described the history of football in Palestine over a 100-year period, Khalidi said the match was played in Jericho in front of an audience of 10,000 people. The match was part of a push to get Federation Internationale de Football Association [FIFA] to recognize the Palestinian Football Federation. The Palestine team was formed using athletes from local leagues in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Palestine defeated Variétés-Club de France 1–0 thanks to a goal by Mahmoud Jarad Sinno.
Two years after that game was played, the Palestinian national team, recognized as the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), became a provisional member of FIFA. This meant the PFA could only play friendly matches in the territories of other national associations affiliated with FIFA.
Originally, the PFA achieved FIFA recognition in the 1930s but the association was not representative of Palestine as a whole. In fact, the national team consisted mostly of European Jews and the affiliated club teams represented Jewish-only outposts and towns. According to Khalidi’s book, the association’s motto and language were in Hebrew which effectively marginalized the country’s Arab majority.
The PFA would later become the Israeli Football Association. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Football Federation was established to represent Palestinian footballers and leagues on an international level. It would later transform into the FIFA-recognized PFA that we know today.
Nader Ihmoud a journalist with a BA in broadcast journalism with a concentration in sports radio from Columbia College Chicago. Nader was born and raised in Chicago and has covered the Big Ten, the Horizon League, and the Big East for The Columbia Chronicle.