Josh Hinckson, who works in the Club’s Academy, and Ryan Peters, who played for The Bees between 2004 and 2008 and now works for Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, have just completed a placement in Palestine.
We arrived safely in Tel Aviv and after a few testing questions at visa control and a few shifty answers from Josh and myself, they allowed us through.
The car was there to greet us and what he assured us was an 1hr 30 min drive, only took 40mins of fast driving, horn blowing and near death driving experiences (nice car though).
The hotel is lovely, we are staying in the same hotel as the football teams that are due to take part in the football tournament over the next week.
After a debrief from the FA representative here, we were given a chance to coach a team that we meet tomorrow and we will also sit in on an A licensed course which will be going on this week in the Joseph Blatter Academy in Al-Bireh.
Today has been nice, a real experience for Josh and I.
We originally thought we would assist the coaches training but it quickly became apparent that we were there to lead the group.
It was interesting how necessary it was to adapt coaching styles in order for the children to understand what it was we was trying to get across to them. Demonstrations became vital and with the help of the Palestinian coaches, we managed to put on a successful session.
a former Palestinian international challenged me…
One of the coaches was a former Palestinian international and challenged me to a crossbar challenge at the end (silly man). 2 attempts later I was victorious with him still going strong 12 attempts later.
We then made our way over to Hebron for the tournament which was surprisingly good, I had preconceptions of what standard it may have been. While at the game, two very polite girls came over to join us called Talla and Mehsi. They spoke about Barcelona being their favoured team and that Barcelona had been to this stadium to train.
They also spoke about how it is compulsory for them to learn English, all schools in Hebron do. Just highlights how much we could learn from this.
Palestine went on to beat Jordan 1-0 with the Jordan keeper practically throwing the ball in his own net.
security was bombarded by hundreds of children
Once the game was over security was bombarded by hundreds of children running onto the pitch. Watching security chase after these little kids was priceless.
On our journeys back we drove past lovely sceneries, glass making shops and a Camel meat shop. Yes You read it correct. A CAMEL MEAT SHOP.!!! The camel was sheered and hung up as decoration outside the shop. A couple hours earlier myself and Josh had lunch……. IT WAS MEAT.
We are picking up little bits of broken Arabic on our travels.
Marhba – Hello
Kefk – How are you
Ajbne – I would like.
The scariest part of this work experience so far are the roads. It’s carnage, the person with the biggest car seems to own the road. People are driving at outrageous speeds and with the roads being…… Well unfinished to be polite, we spent the best part of 2 hours bouncing around seats. I could have been strapped in with 3 seat belts, I’d still be bouncing around.
We are only two days in but the local people have been incredibly polite and very welcoming. The father of one of the boys I coached to come for dinner at the family home – this is part of the local culture.
Josh had a girl come up to him and kiss his hand before placing his hand on her forehead.
‘This was just to say hello,’ she said. They go to great lengths to make you feel welcome.
Josh felt like he had just been knighted.
We passed a phone shop on our travels titled ‘Missed Call’ which made us chuckle.
We saw a different side to Ihsan today, the day ended up being a bit more hectic than first expected which had her stressed. She went from the laid back lady of last night to a lady possessed today. Non stop shouting at people to make sure her boys (myself and Josh) got to our destinations in time. Lovely lady, anything for her boys.
Tomorrow we are due back at the Joseph Blatter Academy. Can’t wait!
Today has been a more passive day but very informative. We were supposed to be meeting with the head of the Palestinian PFA and his representatives but that has been postponed. Instead we had lunch with Roberto, a professional Football player in Palestine who formerly played for Bari.
He spoke to us of his desire to try and increase the standard of the coaching standards, mentality of the professional footballers and the standard of agility testing.
He explained how the game was only professionalised in 2008 so everything is still rather amateur. He is already in talks to become technical director in some capacity for Palestine once his contract is up.
We were then fortunate enough to be allowed to travel with the Palestine team to watch them train. Escorted by armed police we made our way through town to the training venue.
Ishan decided to do what Josh wasn’t man enough to do and asked the goalkeeper for a conversation (Josh thought he played well in the game and wanted a picture with him, but was too shy to ask), the majority of the players playing for the Palestinian Olympic team are professional.
Training started at 6.30 but the tempo of the session didn’t really get past a jog for all of 30 mins, it was very light.
It’s amazing how much the Academy has evolved
Although there wasn’t much to take from the session, it gave me a chance to speak in depth to Josh about his coaching journey and aspects of his coaching that he has taken on board from Ossie [Brentford FC Academy Director]. It’s amazing how much the Academy has evolved, the sky is the limit for them.
Driving back through the streets, the diversity in houses was vast. Majority of the houses on the streets were little brick huts, something you would imagine Fagan in Oliver Twist to live in. Slap bang in the middle of these houses, there would be a massive house with the look of a palace. It was quite bizarre.
One of the Palestinian players decided to come to the front of the coach and become the Michael McIntyre of the team, he had the team in stitches the entire journey back. I couldn’t remember seeing him play yesterday, Josh confirmed that he warmed the bench well. Think it’s fair to say he chose the wrong profession.
All in all a calm but enlightening day.
We met with the coaches of The Joseph Blatter Academy. They thought it may be a good idea to sit down and put some ideas together going forward. It was an open forum with 7 of us coaches thrashing out ideas with Ishan translating for us.
We looked at their session plans, heard their plan for the development of the academy and others across Palestine.
They have over 150 academy children coming through the doors. Palestinian children have it rough out here, harder than any other boy so the academy is a way out for them.
The academy starts from the age of 9, they train twice a week and have Agility, coordination, strength, passing, shooting and long Throws testing once every 3 months. They were shocked to hear that at the academy and Trust we train boys from the age of 6. They seem keen to implement younger ages.
The academy has 3 floors.
First floor: Reception, Coaches Offices, Changing rooms, Showers etc.
Second Floor: Board room, lecture rooms.
Third Floor: Swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
these facilities supersede many in England
They have opened 3 of these facilities so far and are really keen to improve standards. In fact these facilities supersede many of the facilities in England.
We spoke to them about how we do things at both the Trust and Academy, some of which they already did but other parts they were happy to hear. They now have a book on how the Trust works and a DVD of how the stadium will look, they were also given some useful tools from Josh on how the academy works.
Although the academy is looking promising, it needs character. The coaches there are either former Internationals or played at a good level. They could put their pictures up in the changing rooms for the children to see with slogans of positivity.
The coaches asked of my playing background and was bemused at how I was able to coach and play at the same time. I informed them that it was normal in England, but in Israel the law is that you can only do one at a time. You must pick between playing and coaching and cannot have any badges until you finish playing.
They asked us how the levels differed between the boys we coached on Saturday and the boys we coach back in England. We believed they were a few years behind where they should be. They were keen for us to see their best talents so have asked us back tomorrow to coach their A team.
We were supposed to travel over to Sabastia to meet up and stay the night with Jane and the gang but we felt it was worthwhile to take training tomorrow. We will head over to Sabastia tomorrow after the session to meet and coach some children from the village before moving onto the stadium to watch Palestine play their next match.
The Tea here by the way is immense. When they offered me it, I thought it was joke, it was as if they had just ripped a thorn bush out and thrown it in a glass for me. The tea Put PG tips to shame, I’m hooked on it and I’m not really a lover of tea.
It’s been a good day.
Today while at breakfast we were joined by a Belgian couple who were travelling. They were very polite intellectual people who had travelled the length of Israel trying to educate themselves.
We made our way over to the Joseph Blatter Academy to coach their “A” team. The session was supposed to start at 3, we arrived at 2.30 to set up but the coaches didn’t turn up till 3.10. To us (Josh and I) it seemed like poor practice for the coaches to be there later than the players but it seems it’s the culture out here. Nevertheless we carried on with the session trying to stamp some English habits into their coaching.
The session was a success (I hope) and we saw 2 or 3 from each age group that have the potential for some sort of future abroad.
When we made it to Sabastia we were greeted with a lovely vegetarian cuisine. I think someone must have informed the chef of my love for cakes because the desert (cakes) was superb. It’s fair to say the majority of it was eaten by myself.
Jean decided it may be a good idea to go for a walk at 10 o’clock at night. It’s rare you find me walking in England at that time of night never mind abroad but I felt safe with Jean.
Jean wanted us to see the Sabastia football stadium, after a 5 minute walk Gene said ” here it is, the stadium”, Josh replied ” where”. The best way to describe the stadium was a pub car park with 2 goals. Just goes to show the difference in culture and revenue. We are scheduled to do some coaching tomorrow on the pitch.
Just across from the pitch is what Jean describes as the ‘Youth Lounge”. Shisha, cards, dominoes and leisurely talk go on here. Shisha is socially quite big out here much to Andree’s displeasure who was a Nurse in her past time.
We sat down and had a drink with the Youths. A man sat down and Jean told us how she was explaining to them how beautiful and peaceful London was, she took the gentleman over to London for work experience and within his stay the Riots took place (how’s your luck).
“Yes, one football Yes”
Josh asked what equipment we would have for tomorrow. ” excuse me, how much equipment will we have, 29 footballs, cones, bibs? His reply was ” Yes, one football Yes”.
It was an amusing night. The place we are staying in tonight is a 300 year old palace.
We are scheduled to start at 8 tomorrow morning. Andree is not the type of person you want to upset, very strict and direct.
Off to bed for us.
Our first night staying in the religious town of Sabastia was interesting. Within the renovated palace was a modernised mosque for the town to pray.
At 4am we were awoken by the sounds of the Imam on the loudspeaker. We were so close to the mosque it felt like he was screaming in our ears. We were then awoken again at 5 for their second prayer.
Drums, trumpets, flags etc were used and after we were taken into the Headteacher’s room for a quick insight into how the school is run.
Most schools are single sex but the Sabastia school is mixed, they have roughly 300 students.
We were given their coffee as a welcome, it’s fair to say it is very very very different to the normal Nescafé. They make their coffee with cardamom seeds, something we use to season food with. Very very over powering, an acquired taste.
We then went outside to participate in a match with some of the students. Josh’s team was Real Madrid and we were Barcelona. After a well fought battle with Barcelona showing some outrageous attacking flair, the game finished 1-1. Man of the match was of course Xavi-Peters in the middle of the park.
Bearing in mind we were playing on gravel…
Josh finished the game drenched in sweat, good desire and showed he had to work harder for his point. I (smart and efficient), saw myself as an integral cog in the mechanics of the team. I sat in the middle of the park and controlled traffic, 99 per cent pass completion.
The boys showed good imagination and flair. Bearing in mind we were playing on gravel the goalkeepers sliding around were pretty brave.
After pictures and hand shaking we then made our way to Nablos. Abu Yasser (the gentleman who owns the palace and manager of the Sabastia team) took us to a meat shop for lunch. “Leave it to me,” he said, and when lunch was served what Abu Yasser asked for was 1kg of meat. It’s fair to say my diet has completely gone out the window (crash course diet when I get back).
The roads in Sabastia are very narrow and bumpy. Trying to get two cars to pass side by side at great speed seems simple to the drivers. What’s noticeable about the roads is that they are mostly hills so when driving down them it is almost vertical.
At 4.30 we went to play a friendly match with the Sabastia team. Very proud, humble guys who battled well. The pitch was bad, I mean really bad. A dirt track would have been safer but testament to the guys, they managed to make the game very entertaining regardless.
Josh’s team won 4-2 in the end, well worth their victory.
We were then changed and ready for the Palestine match. As the matches were all free entry, Sabastia made a valiant effort to drum up as much support as possible. They managed to get a coach load of boys together, us and Jean included and we headed to the game.
With the Sabastia boys arm in arms with us, we sang our heart out without myself or Josh knowing what these words meant.
Once the game was over with Palestine winning 3-0, we met up with Ishan again and joined the Palestine team on their coach for the journey home.
Over and out.
Today we went to visit some of the boys from refugee camps. They had formed a football team named Amare and last year won their league. They have been talent spotted and are asked over to Turkey,Spain and the Ukraine to name a few for tournaments. They treated us like celebrities, all keen to impress showcasing their skills.
The Captain (coach) was a secondary school teacher who spoke fluent English; he was very passionate about football and shed a tear when we identified his son as one of main talents.
What was interesting was that the level of the Amare team was substantially higher than that of The Joseph Blatter Academy. The standard of the boys was very impressive. We took pictures with the boys and gave them a few gifts to remember us and Brentford by.
Ishan asked us to meet her at the hotel for 6 o’clock were she introduced us to Lubna, of foreign affairs, Susan, Director of international relationships at the PFA, and Amar, a board member of Al-bireh youth foundation.
We spoke about the desire to improve football standards here and how thankful they were that we could be here. Amar seemed very keen to understand what we do as part of the Trust as they were trying to do something similar here in Palestine.
They showed us a prototype of a indestructible ball designed by One World Futbol, the
idea was thought of and funded by the singer Sting. The idea clearly was that it never breaks. He sat on the ball and it deflated, the moment he got off it the ball went back to its original shape. This concept has potentially for use back home too!
Amar spoke brilliant English, he was born in Canada where he had just finished studying but was brought up in Palestine. He spoke of his affection for Manchester City and when over in England always goes to watch.
Tomorrow we are off to see Amars Foundation then on to Ein fara which is on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It will be a chance to just sample nature.
We were given a tour of Amar’s Youth foundation. It sat opposite The Joseph Blatter Academy and both shared the astro-turf facility. The foundation itself had certain characteristics similar to the Trust in terms of what they were trying to achieve but on a much larger scale as they were national.
The facilities boasted a three-story development with over 15 functional rooms: media room, soundproof music room, board rooms to name a few.
Amar is the grandson of the president of the country so is a busy man at conferences etc. but is very passionate about making the foundation self sufficient and hopes to be able to come to London to possibly meet with us.
Josh brought a 2012/13 Brentford shirt as a Thank you for their hospitality and believed it may look best in the coffee shop in Sabastia.
We said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel to meet Amar for dinner. Chinese was the destination (not very traditional I know) and what a great last supper with tremendous people.
Tomorrow we head back to England, filled with great ideas of how to possibly make Brentford a well-known name in Palestine. Instead of cheering on Barcelona, in years to come it will be the mighty Bees.
The coaches have expressed a desire to come across to Brentford to understand how the coaches here work but also welcome Brentford over with open arms to see the country
some more and help expand their football.
Palestine play Pakistan in their last game of the tournament; I am really upset to be missing that as that will be the best game of the tournament. I wish the Palestine team the best of luck and hopefully finish the tournament top.
Myself and Josh want to say a massive thank you to Aun and Kath of Hounslow-Ramallah Twinning Association, Mark Devlin of Brentford FC who did all the groundwork and covered the costs along with Lee Doyle and Luke Skelhorn from the Trust and the BFC Academy Director Ose Aibangee.
Last but not least a massive thank you to Jean and the team, Palestine FA and to a special lady Ishan for looking after us throughout the trip.
Thank you guys.