الأردن / Jordan
- Capital: Amman / عَمّان
- Official Languages: Arabic
- Nicknames: النشامى (The Chivalrous)
- Association: Jordan Football Association (JFA) / الاتحاد الأردني لكرة القدم
- FIFA Code: JOR
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): Quarter Finals (2004, 2011)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (2014, 2018)
- Best WAFF Championship Result (Men): Finalists (2002, 2008, 2014)
- Best WAFF Championship Result (Women): WINNERS (2005, 2007, 2014, 2019)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 37th (August-September 2004)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 50th (June-December 2017)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 152nd (July 1996)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 144th (December 2007)
- Most Capped Player: Amer Shafi – 176 caps [as of Feb 2021]
- Top Scorer: Badran Al-Shaqran – 30 goals
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (المملكة الأردنية الهاشمية) is an Arab country situated in the Levant (‘Middle East‘) region of western Asia. Despite having joined FIFA in 1956, the country did not enter World Cup or Asian Cup qualifying until the 1980s. Sadly the country has not yet qualified for the World Cup, although they came incredibly close to qualification for the 2014 World Cup when they reached the final playoff round with the winner guaranteed a spot in the tournament. However they came unstuck against the South American qualifier, Uruguay, over the two legged affair. Jordan had also failed to qualify for the Asian Cup throughout the 20th century, but in 2004, they finally reached their debut tournament and progressed to the quarter-finals. Since then, they have qualified for a further three Asian Cups, reaching the Round of 16 in the most recent edition in 2019. They have also finished as finalists on three occassions in the local West Asian Championship, most recently in 2014.
They are currently regarded as one of the better teams within the Asian confederation having been ranked as the 15th best side in Asia during the qualification draw phase for the 2022 World Cup, and within the second tier of teams in the group draw.
To talk about one of the stronger teams in West Asian sub-confederation, and a team which came close to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup and reached the last 16 of the most recent Asian Cup, we interviewed the brilliant Jordan Football. A superb and knowledgeable account which focuses on all things involving Jordanian football, whether that is involving Jordanian clubs or the national teams. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @JordanianFoot
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
About the managers, the best Jordanian manager in our history is the late Mazhar Al-Saeed which is named the ‘Sheikh‘ of Jordanians managers.
He started his career as young player with Jordanian team Al-Ahli and he was a member of Jordanian national team for under 18s. Unfortunately he retired early because of injuries and went to study coaching in Spain. He returned to manage the Al-Ahli first team and won the Jordanian league twice for them in 1978 & 1979 after saving them from relegation. That was the last time Al-Ahli won the league. In 1982 he travelled to Germany in order to get his professional coaching license, and after he returned to Jordan, he managed Al-Faisaly who were in very bad shape back then and hadn’t won the league for last 5 years. He got rid of the older players and signed/promoted young players to create a golden era for Al-Faisaly, whilst managing the club in five seperate spells (1982-1985, 1987-89, 1990-97, 2009-2010 and 2012). He won 12 league titles (the last of them was in 2004), 12 cup titles, 6 cup of the cups titles, and 4 super cup titles with Al-Faisaly alone.
On the foreign competitions side, Jordanian teams weren’t really on the Asian map yet and didn’t participate in Asian competitions, but there were unofficial Arabian competitions that Mazhar managed Al-Faisaly to play in. He reached the Arab Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1996, losing against OC Khouribga from Morroco, and that led them to participate in 1997 Arab Super Cup for first time ever, where they got one of their best results in their history, beating the kings of Morocco, and the favourites, Raja Casablanca 2-1.
On the personal side he was a great human indeed. He worked in a lot of clubs and in places as the ‘sports teacher in schools’ without getting paid. In fact, he helped a lot of a players financially and sometimes he brought few players to train in his own back garden. He was ahead of his time back then, as he was dedicated to football and cared a lot about the smallest details, and he even improved the fitness of his players by introducing innovative ways in training that nobody in Jordan knew back them.
He passed away in October 2017, leaving a huge legacy behind him by being the most successful manager in Jordanian football history achieving titles by 37 titles – unbreakable record!
In terms of foreigners managers, when you ask any Jordanian about best manager in Jordan national team history he will answer you in seconds ‘Mahmoud El-Gohary‘, the late Egyptian manager who managed Jordan from 2002 until 2007, and revolutionised Jordanian football.
In 2002, the Jordanian FA announced that El-Gohary would take charge of the national team. Back then, Jordan weren’t large on the Asian football map and so a lot of the Egyptians supporters and media were shocked he became Jordanian manager, mainly because he had offers from better teams like Tunisia, South Africa and Libya.
He focused-in on all details of our national team and depended on a lot of young and experienced players. One of best calls that he made included not depending on Al-Faisaly and Al-Wehdat players, who are the best two clubs in Jordan. He called-up 20 year-old goalkeeper Amer Shafi who was playing with the small team Al-Yarmouk, and he proved himself to El-Gohary, and subsequently he became one of Jordan’s best ever players. Players like Mo’ayyad Abu Keshek, Hassan Abdel-Fattah, Amer Deeb, Odi Al-Saify and Abdel-Hadi Al-Maharmeh also got their international debuts with him at a young age and then became essential parts of the national team.
In his first WAFF Championship in 2002, he led us to final of the tournament, beating Iran 1-0 (one of best Asian teams) on the way to the final, but sadly lost against Iraq in the final 2-3. He then led Jordan in a Bahrain-hosted unofficial tournament in which we got the first place, and the Arab Nations Cup where we reached the semi-finals before losing against Bahrain. For the 2004 Asian Cup qualifications he set a goal to reach the Asian Cup for the first time in Jordanian football history. In the first match of qualifiers Jordan lost 4-1 to Iran and that didn’t shock anybody really, but he managed to bounce-back and win 3-2 in the 2nd leg against Iran which was a big upset. The huge form continued by winning against Lebanon twice, Qatar twice and North Korea twice ‘one of two matches which they didn’t attend’ and lead Jordan to their first ever Asian Cup in their short history, nobody will forget that!
As debutants in the Asian Cup, Jordan were placed in the same group as 2002 World Cup semi-finalists South Korea, but managed to hold them to a goalless draw in their opening game. They then proceeded to defeat Kuwait 2-0 before drawing the last group match 0-0 with the United Arab Emirates. In the quarter finals Jordan played against the best Asian team ever, Japan. El-Gohary’s team didn’t wait long to score, they just needed 11 minutes for Khaled Saad’s cross to reach Mahmoud Shelbaya’s head and scores the first goal, Japan scored after 2 minutes and the match eventually went to the penalty shoot-out. Jordan was 2-0 ahead in the shoot out, but out of the blue, Japan’s captain asked the referee to change the goals in which the teams were shooting into (something I would describe one of the weirdest football events ever!). Jordan players were in shock, and when the referee compiled and changed the goals, we missed four of our penalty shots and Japan won 4-3 in the end, eventually ending the competition as the Asian Cup champions.
After this success, Jordan reached their highest FIFA rank ever in their history, 37th in the world, only because of El-Gohary. He also reached the WAFF Championship semi-finals again in 2007, but this time lost against Iran 0-1. In the same year, he left Jordan as manager, and although he didn’t win any official cups during his tenure, he managed to put Jordan on the Asian map and made them a bigger name by building a golden era with young players, putting a new approach for the team, and he even improved the Jordanian local teams and players.
He returned in 2009 to work as a consultant in the Jordanian FA and he was instructed to start an academy for every Jordanian team and dedicated himself to find a new wealth of talent. He also helped to educate Jordanian managers, most of them are now managing in Jordanian Pro League, like Abdullah Abu Zema who managed the national team and Al-Wehdat (winning 3 leagues, including this season’s league), and Jamal Abu Abed who also managed the national team and others.
He passed away in 2012 and the Jordanian government gave him a proper state funeral in honour of his achievements with the Jordanian team.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
The best player in our history, and our current & past cult hero, is without any doubt our legendary goalkeeper Amer Shafi. The 39 year old started his international career when he was only 20 in 2002, and he’s still our first choice keeper in 2021!
You always hear that the keeper is half the team, in Jordan he’s the entire team. He’s the most important player in our recent history, you can’t underestimate his importance for us. In 2004 he helped us to qualify for our first Asian Cup, and he had a clean sheet in all group matches, in the quarter finals against Japan he saved a penalty but sadly Jordan lost that match. He also aided us to qualify for Asian Cup 2011, 2015 & 2019, and in most of those cup matches he was our Man of the Match.
In the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification 4th round, we were in a specifically hard group with Japan and Australia, yet he still helped us to win those two matches in Jordan, saving a penalty against Japan. We eventually reached the 5th round ‘Asian play-offs’, something we had never reached that far in our history. In the 5th round play-offs against Uzbekistan he saved the last penalty [as the teams went to a penalty shootout due to drawing 2-2 on aggregate] and we went through to face Uruguay in the AFC-CONMEBOL play-offs.
He’s known as the ‘Whale of Asia‘ (due to his acrobatic saves rather than anything about size) because he’s one of the best Asian goalkeepers ever, you can ask any Asian football fan and they will certainly know about him. In the last Asian Cup in 2019, he was the MOTM in 1-0 win against Australia, and I won’t exaggerate if I say that he’s been the MOTM in 99% of our big matches in recent history. He’s the 9th most capped player to have played international match in the history of men’s football, playing an astonishing 176 matches and is still increasing.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Jordan currently?
About our current best player, it’s without doubt Mousa Al-Tamari, who currently plays at Oud-Heverlee Leuven in Belgium, a 23 year-old right-winger who can play in the middle or the left also.
He started with Shabab Al-Ordon, one of Jordan’s best teams and are known for producing such talents like Al-Tamari. He was only 19 when he led them to win the Jordanian Shield 5-1 against the biggest Jordanian team, Al-Faisaly, where he scored the fourth goal. He was called-up to the Jordan national team at that young age and made his international debut in 2017. The next season he joined another Jordanian big team Al-Jazeera on loan and he was the best player in the league by miles, winning the Jordanian Cup and reaching AFC Cup final (the Asian equivalent of the UEFA Europa League).
After being the best Jordanian player despite being only 21 years old, a host of European clubs were interested in him, and there were a lot of scouts who watched him in the cup final, especially from Belgium, Switzerland and Cyprus, even though he had a trial with French side Strasbourg. Ultimately, he decided to join APOEL in Cyprus. It’s very rare for Jordanian players to go play in Europe, as they prefer the Gulf leagues’ money, and so he became the first Jordanian player to move to Europe since 2009! It was brave and huge move from him with APOEL, being only 21 years old age and playing in a new whole level, different league & a new language. APOEL signed him to be an investment for future and didn’t expect him to start right away, but he managed to be a guaranteed starter and became the best player with them in his first season. He led them to win Cypriot First Division and Cypriot Super Cup, and won the MVP award for the Cypriot League, as well as being declared the best signing in the league and scoring the best goal in the season. The fans literally fell in love with him and made him a song.
After his magnificent first season with APOEL a lot of clubs were interested in him (or at lest keeping tabs on him), such as Sassuolo, Torino, Caligari and Roma. However, last season, in his second season with APOEL, he was inconsistent. APOEL changed their manager frequently and also changed a lot of their players, and resultantly Al-Tamari didn’t offer a lot as APOEL got knocked out in the first knockout stage in Europe League by Basel. He also started in both matches against Sevilla in the group stage, but APOEL were in complete chaos and they get finished in 3rd place in the league which was unfamiliar position for them.
At the start of this season he seemingly wanted to leave APOEL by any means, as he had one year left in his contract and he was reportedly refusing to renew it. Therefore he joined OHL, a newly promoted side from Belgium, for approximately €1m, although he hasn’t started many games or impressed much because he has been played as right wing-back despite being right winger. However in his debut match against Anderlecht, he came on as a substitute and nearly scored an amazing goal from outside of the box in the last minute. Unfortunately his effort hit the crossbar and the match ended 2-2.
For the national team side he has played 34 times and scored 7 goals, helping Jordan to qualify for the Asian Cup 2019. Before the tournament, AS newspaper (a Spanish sports newspaper) chose him among 5 Asian talents to keep eyes on during the tournament, and he subsequently scored a goal and assisted 2 more as we finished top of the group. However we got knocked out by Vietnam on penalties in the Round of 16, much to a huge surprise.
Jordanian fans literally adore him and they follow him where he goes, but that’s understandable because as I said Jordanian players lack the wages here, and often prefer to move to leagues like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, etc, even if they had to play with very small clubs! But he has a great ambitious and chose another path, and he succeeded by all means with APOEL despite no one expecting that. He has opened the route for other Jordanian players to play in Europe like Omar Hani who APOEL signed after Al-Tamari’s first season with them.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
The current state of our national team isn’t at it’s best really. We were much better from 2011-2015, but we were worse from 2015-2018.
In terms of players, we have a group of brilliant players now, the best group we ever had in our recent history, even some of them went to play in Europe or at least having European offers, so that’s something to begin with. However, in terms of clubs, most of them are really in chaos! They are suffering financially with the biggest clubs unable to afford to pay their players, or have cases against them from their former players. They are unable to obtain licenses from the AFC to play in the continential competitions, and one big club is on the verge to be entirely closed! So that’s a huge obstacle on the way of developing Jordanian football.
In terms of results, I have contradictory opinions about the current manager, Vital Borkelmans. He began in a great way by reaching the round of 16 in the 2019 Asian Cup but suffered a huge upset when we lost to Vietnam on penalties. He has had his ups and downs, in the AFC 2022 World Cup qualifications, we lost at home to Australia and drew at home to Kuwait, so those are regarded as bad results as we now demand more looking at the state and quality of players we have. Now we need to earn at least 4 points from them two at their stadiums in order to qualify to next round [the top teams from each group, as well as the best four second-placed teams qualify – Jordan are currently 3rd in their group]. Even our results against Taiwan and Nepal weren’t that big or satisfying either.
Q. Are there any Jordanian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Talking about the best Jordanian talents, I think we are very lucky to have plenty of potential talent these days.
One of these players is Al-Ramtha’s player Mohammad Abu Zrayq aka ‘Sharara‘. The 23 year old right winger, who can also play on the left, is the closest player we have to Al-Tamari and unfortunately they play in the same position. Abu Zrayq first appeared in the 2018-19 season when he helped Al-Ramtha, with their young squad, to the Jordanian Cup final after scoring a wonderful goal in the semi finals, and he was overall superb in the league despite Al-Ramtha struggling and just avoiding relegation in the last few games. A lot of Greek and Cypriot clubs were interested in him, and he was very close to join AEK Athens for approximately €500K, but a problem with obtaining his visa meant the deal was cancelled at the last minute.
His bad luck also continued with injuries, especially before national team matches. He has only played 4 matches with Jordan. He joined Qatari club Al-Sailiya on loan, and got an injury in his first match. He has since returned to Al-Ramtha recently and is doing well, getting called to the national team, and he even scored his first international goal a week ago against Tajikistan.
There is also Yousef Abu Galboush aka ‘Sisa‘, a 22 year old midfielder with Al-Faisaly. The best Jordanian midfielder who can really make a pass, but his injuries have sidelined him outside of the national team. In the most recent squad announcement, he got his first call-up and could potentially make his international debut. Mesut Özil’s agent has signed him after he saw him playing.
Ameen Al-Shanaineh, left winger, he’s only 17 years old and got his debut appearance with the biggest Jordanian team Al-Faisaly when he was only 15! He won the Jordanian league last season with them. This season Al-Faisaly are suffering in the league but he has managed to start a few games despite big competition. He is one of the brightest talents, and got his first call-up to the U23 national team in the last UAE camp, made his debut and started 2 matches.
Q. Looking at Jordan’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
I think that there’s a lot of good results in our recent history to look back to, but I would choose the 2-1 win against Japan in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification, the match that witnessed Amer Shafi saving a penalty. It was one of the most important matches because it contributed to Jordan taking 3rd place in the group, after Japan and Australia, and qualifying for the World Cup 2014 Asian Play-offs.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
There have been a lot of big losses in our history so it’s a hard question to answer. If you need a match that Jordanian fans didn’t sleep after, and still upsets them despite having a great performance, it was in our Asian Cup debut in 2004. We managed to reach the quarter finals against Japan, the match ended 1-1 after extra time, in the subsequent penalty shoot-out we were ahead 2-0 and all things are pointing that Jordan will reach the semi finals. Out of the blue, the Japanese captain asked to change the goal and the referee agreed! Jordan lost 4-3 and we all still remember that chaotic moment!
But if we talk about the biggest upset, that was only 2 years ago. Jordan started the 2019 Asian Cup as the underdogs against Australia and Syria, two of biggest contenders for the overall cup. Jordan won against both of them and was the first team to qualify for the next round and to guarantee 1st place in the groups. In the next round, we played against Vietnam, and we had a potentially easier road paved infront of us to reach at least the semi final or even the final if we had won against Vietnam. They were an easy opponent on paper, but we drew 1-1 after 120 minutes, and then lost in the penalty shoot-out.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Jordanian national team?
I think the best moments of supporting the national team is that you feel emotionally attached to it. In special moments, especially in winning games, you feel an amazing feeling that a part of you have also won a game.
The worst part is that sometimes the players, the managers, the staff, etc, don’t give their best 100% at times… it’s a fact that nobody wants to see the national team to be better more than the fans. The fans care the most! So it’s kind of sad when the fans see the national team suffering, and the important persons don’t seem to be doing anything about it!
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
I can remember a particular chant that we sung to our legend Amir Shafi during matches:
“Feee’a Feeee’a ya Shafi“, the translation is similar to ‘Go, Go Shafi‘.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
My favourite shirt of the national team was the one worn in the 2014 World Cup qualifications because it has great memories attached to it.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Jordanian national team?
Our hope is to reach the World Cup for once. It seems a difficult thing to ask, but when a team who has beaten such teams like Japan, Australia, Iran, Syria, Uzbekistan, China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in recent years, why can’t they be the superior team and have the better results in the qualifications? Before the last match against Australia we were better than them in the head-to-head results.
But we still have hard matches left in qualification as we will have to play against Australia away and Kuwait away. We have a group of special players so it would be a shame if we didn’t get at least four points against them in order to qualify for next round of World Cup qualifying.
A massive شكرا جزيلا to Jordan Football for answering our questions on the Chivalrous. Remember you can find their excellent account and podcast in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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