It’s a match between friends
GETTING READY: The Palestine team practising at the Nehru Stadium in Kochi ahead of its match against India on Wednesday. | The Hindu

The Indian football team may be working hard for the February 6 international football friendly here but its opponent Palestine is just looking at it as a match between friends.

In fact, the Palestine team extended a warm hand of friendship to India soon after its arrival at the Nehru Stadium, the match venue, here on Monday evening.

“This is a very important game for us, that’s clear,” said Abdallah Alfara, the Palestine team’s Head of Delegation. “But, we are not looking to win. If India wins, that’s good for us. If we win, that’s good for India. We are friends, this is a friendly game.”

And the visiting team has decided not to insist on some of its heavyweights, playing in professional leagues in Argentina, Chile, Jordan and Egypt, coming for the Kochi game.

“We have more than 12 professional players playing in professional leagues outside but only two (captain Abadal Latif Albahdari and Ashraf Alfawaghra) are here,” said the visiting team’s HoD. “We have not invited the others because if we invite them, our local players will not get a chance,” said Alfara. “For us, it’s better to invite the local players to prepare them for the AFC Challenge Cup (in Nepal in March).”

“The Challenge Cup is not on FIFA dates and if it’s not on FIFA dates, you cannot ask the (foreign) clubs to send your players. So, it’s better for us to start with our local players for the Challenge Cup.”

That could be very good news for India which is hungry gain some points to lift it a few rungs in the World rankings from No. 166. Palestine is ranked 152nd.

The Palestine team is a young side, with a few of them around 18 and 19 and with an average age of 23.

Just six of them figured in the team which played the West Asian Championship in Kuwait a few months ago.

The Palestinians also used the opportunity to invite India for the Al Naqba Cup — the Palestine International Cup — in May this year.

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