Photo credit: Ahmed Abdulla Saeed
Date taken: May 30, 2014
Location: Malé, Maldives
The Palestinian national team prostrates on the grass of the Maldivian National Football Stadium following a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Philippines in the final match of the AFC Challenge Cup. A second half goal from the tournament’s top scorer Ashraf Nu’man Alfawaghra allowed Palestine to hoist its first ever international trophy and to secure its spot in the AFC Asian Cup, the continent’s most prestigious and most competitive tournament.
This marks a historic day for football culture in Palestine. Despite facing many struggles, including but not limited to Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian players traveling to and from the Palestinian territories as well as the bombing of the team’s national stadium, Palestine was still able to come away with a win against a formidable opponent when it mattered most. This is the first time the team has ever qualified for the Asian Cup, and although they are considered to be heavy underdogs, the international footballing community is excited to see a team overcome so many obstacles and make it this far. The 2015 AFC Asian Cup will be hosted in Australia and will feature sixteen of the continent’s top teams, including Japan, South Korea, and Iran.
Although the team’s prostrations carry religious undertones, the celebration is also a nod to the Palestinians’ connection to land. Bowing, kissing, and being one with the ground is, in many ways, a recognizable gesture, symbolically representing the emotional reaction many Palestinians have upon entering their land for the first time in a long while or upon being released from Israeli administrative detention.