DOHA: Musab Al-Battat has guided Palestine both on and off the field with his all-action performances. The team has overcome great odds to make it to the Asian Cup knockout stages for the first time. The 30-year-old captain will be the person his team looks to for motivation once more on Monday when they play a difficult last-16 match against Qatar, the hosts and current champions.
Palestine defeated Hong Kong 3-0 to secure their first-ever tournament victory and a spot in the regional championship knockout rounds. The man of the match award went to the attacking defender who set up two goals.
The founder of the Football Palestine website, Bassil Mikdadi, described him as a captain who sets an example for others to follow. “Musab Al-Battat can tell the story or the journey of Palestinian football over the last ten years,” Mikdadi continued.
The right-back, who made his debut for the national team in 2013, is participating in his third Asian Cup.
The 99th-ranked team in the world advanced to the next round despite a very problematic build-up that was overshadowed by the conflict between Hamas and the Zionist organization in Gaza, a Palestinian territory.
A few of the players have family members who are stranded in Gaza and have lost loved ones. Before their third Asian Cup, the team traveled overseas to train and compete. As the team’s captain and a well-respected senior player, Battat has represented the group in public and on the field in Qatar.
Donning his team tracksuit and the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh headscarf, he appeared in front of over 80,000 spectators during the opening ceremony to administer the players’ oath. Usually, the skipper of the host country would take care of it.
“A great deal of deference”
With the exception of a brief stint in Egypt, Battat has played football in Palestine throughout his entire career. He currently plays for Shabab Al-Dhahiriya SC, his hometown team, in the West Bank Premier League. Since his debut more than ten years ago, he has earned 61 caps, scoring once and providing six assists.
Stats experts Opta report that he has played every minute of the Asian Cup campaign and has won 12 tackles, more than any other player at the tournament. In addition, he has generated seven opportunities, second only to Lee Kang-in of Paris Saint-Germain, who has eight for South Korea. AFP
Two of the goals against Hong Kong were set up by Battat, who both times flew down the right to deliver precise crosses that resulted in headed goals. In addition to a 1-1 draw with the United Arab Emirates, it was sufficient to move on as one of the top four third-placed teams in the group stage.
Mikdadi told AFP in Doha that although he speaks softly, people have a great deal of respect for him because of the amount of work he does. “He’s the hardest trainer on the field; he’s very professional, takes good care of his body, gets enough sleep, and eats a healthy diet.
“People are drawn to this kind of personality because they look up to him and follow his lead when they know it’s time to get serious and work hard.” After putting on another captain’s performance against Hong Kong, Battat was named man of the match but insisted that the honor was not for him.
He remarked, “We believed in our group (of players) and team spirit.” “The Palestinian players’ spirit was demonstrated by their advancement to the round of 16, and we hope to sustain this spirit for future success.” AFP