Palestine overtakes Israel in FIFA football rankings

Players of the Gaza-side Shabab Rafah football team celebrate with the Palestinian cup following their victory in the second leg of the Palestinian Cup final at the stadium in the city of Dura, near the West Bank town of Hebron, on August 4, 2017. ( AFP / HAZEM BADER)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Palestine overtakes Israel in FIFA football rankings

JERUSALEM: Palestine’s football team achieved its highest ranking in history Thursday, rising above Israel in the FIFA world rankings for the first time.
The head of the Palestinian football association labelled it an “historic achievement” as the team rose two spots to 82nd in FIFA’s latest rankings.
Israel fell 16 places to 98th after a disappointing failed World Cup qualification campaign.
Palestine have recently won a series of games as they seek to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup, including a 10-0 victory over Bhutan.
The announcement comes as the Palestinian football association has campaigned to encourage FIFA to take action against six Israeli clubs located in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Settlements are considered illegal under international law, and the Palestinians had asked FIFA to take action against the Israeli FA.
Last month, FIFA decided it would not intervene in the matter, with the Palestinians accusing the body of bowing to Israeli pressure.
Palestinian FA boss Jibril Rajoub told AFP Thursday the rankings rise was an “historic achievement” that came despite restrictions on football in the Palestinian territories imposed by Israeli forces.
“With this classification, we have defeated the occupation’s measures and its daily harassment, from preventing the freedom of movement of athletes through to all measures that impede Palestinian sport,” he said.
The Israeli Football Association said the country’s sports minister had ordered the formation of a committee to examine the reasons for the lack of success.
“We wish the Palestinians all the best as always,” a spokesman for the IFA said, adding they were willing to play a friendly match against them any time.
“May the best team win,” he said.
Israel qualify for tournaments with European teams, while Palestine are in the Asian qualifying groups.
Palestine was first recognized by FIFA in 1998.


Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

Updated 15 November 2018
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Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

  • 2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari
  • If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events

LONDON: Francesco Molinari is looking to end a fairytale season by becoming the European No. 1 at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which starts today, and the first Italian to achieve the feat.
2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari, with a maiden Major victory in the Open Championship in July, which followed a first Rolex event victory at the BMW PGA Championship in May. He has also not missed a single cut this season, a run that extends over four years in regular European Tour events.
And in a glorious Ryder Cup for the Europeans, he became the first player from the continent to win five points out of five, while securing the winning point in his singles match against USA’s Phil Mickelson.
Speaking to journalists ahead of today’s tee-off, the Italian said: “It feels incredible, a new position for me, I’ve never been here in the past.
“I think it’s just a consequence and a sign of an incredible season. I would have never guessed that I would be here in this position if you told me in April or May this year but it’s been an incredible summer, topped by an unbelievable Ryder Cup.
“Really, it’s a dream season for me and it’s nice to be here in this position. Hopefully I’ll be able to close it out. I know it’s not going to be easy and I’m not making any assumptions but I’ll do my best on the course to do the job.
And when asked about his prospects of winning the Harry Vardon trophy this weekend, he said: “You can have the best week of your life and win one tournament but to win a competition that lasts throughout the season, with the amount of talent there is right now on the European Tour, is something really hard to do but it’s also still hard to figure out for me how I’m here in this position.”
Molinari needs to finish tied-fifth or better at the Jumeirah Golf Estates to seal the Race to Dubai crown, but Ryder Cup partner Tommy Fleetwood — the man he formed such a strong bond with in Paris — is the only man who can prevent him the perfect ending.
Victory for the Englishman on the Earth Course is the only way he can deny Molinari the title, but the Italian was full of praise for his “best friend” and would not begrudge Fleetwood if he successfully defended his Race to Dubai crown.
“I know we said this and we’re going to sound really cheesy but if I don’t win, I’d rather see him win than anyone else,” he said.
“We really are good friends and he’s had an amazing season. To think that he won last year and to come here, still with a chance to win two in a row, it’s incredible, really.
“So fair play to him. What I can say for me is that it’s been a great season and however it goes this week, I’m still going to have lots of great memories from all of what I’ve done this year, and probably the best memory is what we’ve done together with him in France.
“I can’t really be mad at him, even if he wins.”
If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events and he praised the introduction of the European Tour’s prestige level of tournaments.
“There’s a few events that we target every year,” he said. “It’s great for us to have the opportunity to play in such special tournaments.
“Especially for guys like me, playing a home event in Italy that is part of the Rolex Series, just gives a completely new meaning to the Italian Open.”