Adel Hussein Abdulla completes Baja Poland to stay in hunt for FIA T2 crown

Adel Hussein Abdulla back in action at Baja Poland on Sunday. (AN photo)
Updated 28 August 2016

Adel Hussein Abdulla completes Baja Poland to stay in hunt for FIA T2 crown

SZCZECIN, Poland: Nissan’s Adel Hussein Abdulla bounced back from Saturday’s disappointment to set some solid stage times over the remaining four special stages of Columna Medica Baja Poland, round seven of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies on Sunday.
The Qatari and French navigator Jean-Michel Polato suffered a broken suspension bracket on Saturday that prevented them from tackling the third stage, but TOK Sport team technicians repaired the damage without any problems on Saturday evening and Adel Hussein Abdulla was able to rejoin the competitive action in the FIA T2 Championship on Sunday and reach the rally finish in Szczecin in an unofficial eighth place.
The Qatari is chasing the FIA T2 title this season – open for drivers of cars entered as Series Production Cross-Country vehicles – and his Nissan Patrol has support from Nissan Qatar, Nissan Middle East and the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF).
Adel Hussein trailed series leader Yasir Saeidan by nine points at the start of the weekend, but the Saudi endured several punctured tires as well on Saturday afternoon and neither driver was able to benefit from a useful points’ haul in Poland.
Poland’s Robert Kufel, driving a Nissan Navara, dominated the early stages of the event in the T2 category, but he hit trouble on Sunday morning and this opened the door for Martin Sobiech to snatch the win in T2.
Kufel recovered well over the closing stages to move back ahead of Klaudia Podkalicka and snatch second place. Saeidan reached the finish in an unofficial seventh place, with Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Harqan in fifth.
“Obviously it was disappointing to have the problem on Saturday, but it could have been a lot worse,” said Adel Hussein. “Yasir also had problems and that meant he was not able to take full advantage of our issues and pull clear in the championship.”
Adel Hussein was unable to return to action for the second of Saturday’s 176.33km selective sections in the military area around Drawsko Pomorskie and was handed further time penalties. But the situation could have been a whole lot worse for the Qatari until his arch rival for the FIA T2 Championship, Yasir Saiedan, was also delayed and lost time.
Kufel reached the overnight halt with a seven-minute lead in the category over Martin Sobiech, as Saeidan slipped from second to seventh position after his own technical issues.
Two runs through two further shorter stages were planned for Sunday to complete the action before the ceremonial finish in the Szczecin Rally Park.
Saiedan was fastest through the 30.78km of the Dobra stage, as Kufel maintained the outright lead and Adel Hussein returned to action to record the sixth quickest time. Saeidan was the man to beat in the subsequent 17.65km of the Lubieszyn stage as well, although Adel Hussein was back in a competitive pace and third quickest on a stage where the T2-leading Kufel had his own fair share of problems.
Adel Hussein finished strongly with top three times on the last two stages and remains firmly in title contention heading to the penultimate round of the FIA World Cup in Morocco at the start of October.

2016 Columna Medica Baja Poland – positions after SS7 (T2 class):
1. Martin Sobiech (POL)/Inez Kieliba (POL) Mitsubishi Pajero 6hr 27min 00sec
2. Robert Kufel (POL)/Daniel Dymurski (POL) Nissan Navara 6hr 29min 21sec
3. Klaudia Podkalicka (POL)/Blazejj Czekan (POL) Mitsubishi Pajero 6hr 29min 54sec
4. Grzegorz Szwagrzyk (POL)/Jakub Moliter (POL) Mitsubishi Pajero 6hr 51min 15sec
5. Mohammed Al-Harqan (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Toyota Land Cruiser 6hr 56min 28sec
6. Rebeka Jankowska (POL)/Grzegorz Jankowski (POL) Mitsubishi Pajero 7hr 06min 53sec
7. Yasir Saeidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) Toyota Land Cruiser 200 10hr 00min 54sec

Jaka Ihbeisheh’s heartwarming journey from Slovenia to Palestine — via football

Updated 18 November 2018

Jaka Ihbeisheh’s heartwarming journey from Slovenia to Palestine — via football

LONDON: Jaka Ihbeisheh’s eyes glisten as he recalls the moment his father first watched him play for Palestine. While the midfielder’s path to the national team may have been unconventional, those feelings of pride on his debut were wholly natural. From western Yugoslavia to the West Bank, Ihbeisheh’s journey was fueled by a desire to rediscover his roots.
Ihbeisheh was born in Ljubljana in 1986 to a Slovenian mother and a Palestinian father, who met while the latter was studying medicine in Croatia. His parents separated when he was seven years old, however, and his father moved back to Palestine.
It would be 18 years before he saw his father again.
An early love of football developed into a career for Ihbeisheh, who played for a number of Slovenian clubs. But while he lived out his childhood dream professionally, in his personal life there remained a nagging question about the whereabouts of his father.

In 2013, Ihbeisheh finally decided to try to reach out to the man from whom he had been estranged for three quarters of his life.
“After getting married, I started to question more where I was from and what my father had been doing,” Ihbeisheh explained. “We still had an envelope at home with an address on it so I decided to write a letter to him asking him if he wanted to meet me.
“I wrote three letters — in Slovenian, Croatian and English — and to be honest I had no idea if I would receive a reply.”
A month passed by with no response but then one day Ihbeisheh opened his Facebook account to see a friend request from someone whose name was written in Arabic.
“It was a strange moment after all those years but the date of birth matched my father’s so I knew it was him. We started to talk on Skype first, in Croatian. I was amazed he could remember but he said that because he studied medicine in the language he had never forgotten it. He still used Croatian medical textbooks.


Jaka Ihbeisheh in action for Slovenian side Rudar Velenje. (Photo / Twitter: @ihbeisheh)

“After a few calls, my wife and I decided the time was right to go and visit him in Palestine. A lot of people said things like, ‘Don’t go there you are crazy, you will get shot’ — but my father lived there and I wanted to go and visit him. I was not afraid.”
That first trip was fraught with nervous excitement as Ihbeisheh made his way to his father’s homeland via his aunt’s house in Jordan. The midfielder had read and heard about the potential difficulties of the crossing into Palestine and his own passage was not straightforward.
“The security at the border was very heavy and when they asked me where I was going, I said Palestine. He said, ‘No, to Israel’ and I said, ‘No, Palestine’. Then he separated me and my wife and a soldier came and took me into a room to ask a lot of questions.
“They asked about my life, my father, my work, my wife. They went on Wikipedia to check if I really was a Slovenian professional footballer. Then they called my wife inside — they were checking our stories matched. They asked my wife the name of my coach and fortunately she knew it. We were there for five hours in all.”
For Ihbeisheh it was glimpse into the border woes that are a regular part of life for Palestinians, though happier experiences were to come.

“When we got off the bus, my father and all his family were there waiting and it was very emotional. Of course, we had a big meal to celebrate.
“After that trip, I knew that if the opportunity came up I would want to play international football for Palestine. My father didn’t need to say anything for me to know how much it would mean to him.”
When Ihbeisheh returned to Slovenia, the thought of playing for Palestine was still on his mind but he had no idea how to put the wheels in motion. Then a fortuitous meeting with a Palestinian diplomat’s son opened the door. Six months later, Ihbeisheh received a text inviting him to be involved with the squad for the first time.
“My first game was a friendly in Dubai ahead of the 2015 Asian Cup and it was an amazing day. When the national anthem played, I was so proud. You meet the other players and hear their stories, then you understand why it means so much to represent Palestine.
“Since then I have come to play every time they call me. I love being part of this team.”


Jaka Ihbeisheh meeting hero Xavi, and on the sidelines of a Rudar Velenje game. (Photo / Twitter: @ihbeisheh)

Ihbeisheh went on to make a major impact at the Asian Cup in Australia, becoming the first Palestinian player to score at a major international tournament in a 5-1 defeat to Jordan.

But while that was a moment to savour, it paled in comparison to the first game he played in Palestine.
“It is a totally different occasion playing in Palestine. Everyone is supporting their country and they make incredible noise, they want to take pictures with us. We feel like heroes. It’s a shame that our home games are often moved away from our land and our people — I hope this stops.
“My first game there was a 0-0 draw with UAE in (the West Bank town) Al-Ram and of course it was the first time my father saw me play in Palestine. This was an emotional moment for him and for me. He said, ‘I was really proud to see you play but I am proud even when you are not playing. You are always representing your country.’
“The more I am called up to play for Palestine, the more I see him so, for us, football has an important meaning.”
That sentiment is true for many in Palestine, for whom football offers a temporary escape from difficult lives. Palestine may often appear to be a byword for conflict but Ihbeisheh has found the opposite to be true, the country uniting him with both his father and his heritage.
“I feel really sad about some of the things I hear, some of the experience my friends and family have. It is difficult to imagine for people like me who have always lived in Europe. You just hear the things on TV or radio but it is not the same as when my teammates tell me their stories.
“What each of them has gone through, and achieved, to play football for Palestine is inspirational. They know how football can help to give the supporters something, for a little bit of time they forget about all the worries. This is important to them, and me.
“I may not come from Palestine but when we are together as team-mates, there is no difference if you have lived your whole life in Palestine or outside of Palestine. We are all the same, we are family.”