Palestine’s Jaka Ihbeisheh enjoying life in Thailand

Scott McIntyre Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre caught up with Palestinian international footballer Jaka Ihbeisheh and talked to him about life in Thailand with BEC Tero Sasana.

It’s been quite a wild few months for Palestinian national star, Jaka Ihbeisheh, after he helped his national team qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup and then switched leagues from Qatar to Thailand where he’s aiming to help BEC Tero Sasana pull off a shock result in this week’s League Cup semifinal against the powerhouse Muangthong outfit.

The creative midfielder is a national hero in Palestine after he scored his country’s first – and only – goal at an Asian Cup four years ago in Australia and whilst delighted with the team’s progress to a second straight finals, the focus for now is very much on domestic duties.

As he noted, footballers always have to have their bags ‘half packed’ and one day after receiving an offer to join BEC in the mid-season transfer window he was on his way to Thailand and dropped right into the cut and thrust of Southeast Asia’s best domestic competition.

In an exclusive chat with FOX Sports Asia, the 31-year-old opens up on BEC’s desire to return to the top of Thai football, the ‘amazing’ technical quality in the country and his club’s plans to upset Muangthong this coming Saturday.

FSA: Jaka, it’s been a whirlwind time for you of late with the success of Palestine but at club level you made the switch from Qatar across to Thailand; what prompted your move and how have you found things in the country?

JI: I’d visited the country a couple of years ago and I fell in love with Bangkok, the people and the country and I thought I wanted to try this experience after speaking with other friends who play here who told me that football was really developing. So when the offer came I was happy to move here.

When I arrived I felt part of the city and the team immediately and people are so friendly, they waited for me at the airport, gave me a hotel room and everything I needed so the transition was easy.

I’m really enjoying my time here, the club is very professional so the only thing you need to worry about is football and training and everything is perfect.

FSA: The season hasn’t gone as well as some would have liked in the league but you’re now safe from relegation and playing some good football despite sitting 14th. So what have you seen as the issues and the challenges for the club since your mid-season arrival?

JI: Like you said we can’t be relegated but also not much higher in the table but we are still in a very important cup and that will be a huge thing for the whole club because we’ve struggled a bit in the league but this trophy would make our fans and Board of Directors happy for sure.

In the last four matches of the league we have to give our maximum and take as many points as we can and stay strong. It will be easier to start pre-season with a boost of results at the end of this season and then we need to be better, take more points and be higher on the table because the club deserves that.

FSA: Looking at that semifinal in the League Cup, you have to face one of the giants of Thai football in Muangthong, so just how difficult will it be to overcome a side like that?

JI: We are aware that Muangthong at this point are more successful than we are but this is a one-off game at a neutral ground, it’s not home and away, and we will play 90 minutes with 11v11 so anything can happen and we are not afraid of them.

Going into the game we have nothing to lose and that’s to our advantage also given that they play this Wednesday in another cup match so maybe we will have more energy and we have a strong wish to go to the final.

Anything can happen and while we respect them we are not afraid of them and the Thai league is like that when everyone can beat everyone and sure they might be the favourites but the favourites don’t always win.

Ihbeisheh in action against Jordan at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

FSA: What’s the coach’s (Mike Mulvey) approach when you have to play these bigger type of sides?

JI: We will play our own game, in the last few matches we’ve played good football and created a lot of chances but results are not going our way at the moment but we can build on these performances and in the end the better team will win but Mike is not afraid of anyone and trusts his players, system and philosophy and with this attitude we will try to win and go to the final.

The thing is though we don’t just want to get to the final but we want to win; if we get to the final and then we lose we still didn’t do anything.

OK, it’s a nice thing if we make the final but the trophy is the only thing that matters.

FSA: Football in Thailand has really been on a rise recently both at club and various national levels and there are many good players continually emerging from the country – in your time so far what have you made of the level of the game in Thailand?

JI: To be honest I didn’t think that the Thai players would have had as much ability on the ball as they do and they are really good, amazing in fact, technically.

Sometimes maybe we all need to do a bit more in terms of tactical discipline and sometimes when we have strong training without the ball they don’t want to push too hard but if they improve these two things and you combine that with their technical ability and with what they’ve already shown in Asia and the money that is invested then sooner or later they will be one of the leading countries in Asian football.

FSA: Your club, BEC Tero Sasana, is a storied one in Thai football having reached the final of the first ACL back in 2003 but has been on something of a slide since then but with the upcoming name change and involvement of the Police things are starting to look up; I imagine there’s a strong desire from everybody at the club to get back to the upper echelons of Thai football as soon as possible, no?

JI: Of course, to be honest when I came here I was not aware that the club was really, really, big in the past and they all want to return to that level again and are really working hard to get back there and of course the fans would like to see us higher up the table and to play in Asia again and this is the goal for the club to get back to where it was.