Algerian Nourredine Ould Ali: coaching ‘Palestine is something special’

Algerian Nourredine Ould Ali has what must be one of the toughest jobs in football – as coach of Palestine.

Despite the challenges, he has spent more than five years as part of the Palestinian coaching team since 2010, including leading them at this year’s Asian Cup.

As coach, in what was Palestine’s second appearance at the finals, he led them to third place in their group after goalless draws with Jordan and Syria along with a 3-0 loss to Australia.

Unfortunately it was not enough for them to progress as one of the best third-placed teams.

“Remember, we are Palestine. It’s not about winning the World Cup or the Asian Cup,” the 46-year-old told BBC Sport after their exit.

“Our clubs do not have the culture of playing in the Asian Champions League.

“So the first thing when you train a national team like Palestine is to tell them: to win you must not lose. You have to learn not to lose.”

Palestinian clubs are not fully professional and are therefore only eligible to play in the qualifiers for the second tier AFC Cup rather than the Asian Champions League.

The two points Palestine earned in 2019 were an improvement from their maiden participation in 2015, when they lost all three of their matches and conceded 11 goals.

Ould Ali had his first taste of working in Palestine in 2010 when he spent one-and-a-half-years as part of Moussa Bezzaz’s staff.

He then had stints as part of the coaching set-ups with Bahrain’s under-19 team and back home with Algerian club USM Alger.

In 2015 he returned to Palestine as an assistant first to Abdel Nasser Barakat and then Bolivian Julio Baldivieso.

The unique nature of the role motivated him to accept the job as head coach in 2018 to succeed the Bolivian.

Football and Politics

“Palestine is something special, because it is an exceptional country,” explains Ould Ali, in reference to the political situation with neighbours Israel.

“So when it comes to sport for me, I manage human beings, men and one sets goals to reach in spite of the difficulties.

“Knowing that we are not able to not travel (as easily) like other teams. We do not have stadiums like the other teams.

“I cannot bring my players together like all other national teams. It’s a new challenge and a new way to see football.”

Football in Palestine is inextricably linked to politics and the national struggle. With border blockades of players and equipment, Ould Ali has often faced challenges that few other national team coaches have to deal with.

“Everything is subject to politics. For example: we have no airport so it’s difficult to travel and to leave Palestine. You have to cross five borders,” he explained.

“You already have the Palestinian border, after that are two more and then the Jordanian borders when entering and exiting.

“It costs money, it’s wasting time and especially it’s losing energy. It is unnerving.”

Before his move to Palestine Ould Ali worked in his native Algeria where he led Mouloudia Algiers to a domestic cup win, defeating arch rivals USM Algiers in the 2006 final.

Those experiences in Algeria helped Ould Ali to develop his coaching skills and knowledge of the game, but he may not return to the African game anytime soon.

The future?

He is taking his coaching Uefa Pro license in Tubize, Belgium and, while, he is ambitious, realism and family commitments will decide his next managerial steps.

“I want to live with my children, with my wife,” stresses Ould Ali, whose family are based with him in Southern France.

“I want to see my children grow up. I want to have fun with my children. I want to reprimand them! I want them to get mad at me.

“It’s true, sometimes we are dreamers. We have to be realistic. We have to keep our feet on the ground.”

His immediate future remains with Palestine, a team that is ranked in the top 100 of the world.

The 23-man Asian Cup squad included nine overseas-based players, who ply their trade in Europe, Africa and as far as Argentina and Chile.

Ould Ali considers that international exposure as a crucial step for coach education and the long-term development of Palestinian football.

“I will try to encourage them to become coaches because they have had a great time abroad,” explains Ould Ali.

“They know what high-level football is. They can draw up a programs, they can design a project to develop Palestinian football.

“The FA president Jibril Rajoub encourages them, he is aware of that. He is moving things along that way.”

If Ould Ali continues as Palestine coach his next challenge on the pitch will be 2022 World Cup qualifying that gets underway later this year for Asia.


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Publish date : 2019-02-01 09:47:18

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