Pitch Battle follows the against-all-odds story of the Palestinian football team as they compete for the first time in the biggest football tournament in Asia.
The Palestinians became the Cinderella story of world sport in 2014 when they defied 18 other teams in Asia to win the Challenge Cup – their first international trophy. But the real prize was the ticket they won to compete in the 2015 Asian Cup, in Australia.
Never mind the fact that they’ll be up against the reigning champions of Asia – Japan – in their very first match, in Newcastle, NSW. For millions of Palestinians at home, and thousands here in Australia, the result on the field doesn’t really matter. It will be a victory just to see their flag raised, and hear their national anthem played, in a country that still doesn’t officially recognise Palestine.
But can the players even make it here? In the lead up to the Cup, some of them are dealing with the destruction of their homes in Gaza after a brutal 52-day war between Hamas and the Israeli army, and one key player is in jail, accused by Israel of being a courier for Hamas.
Pitch Battle follows Abdelhamid Abu Habib, an exile from Gaza who lives on the West Bank and hasn’t been home in three years, and the team’s assistant coach, Saeb Jundiyeh, who lost the top two floors of his house in the Gaza war. Team boss is Jibril Rajoub, a former security aide to Yasser Arafat who spent more than 15 years inside Israeli prisons. He’s upfront that the football team is another weapon in the ongoing PR war against Israel.
Filmed over five months in the Middle East, the Philippines and Australia, Pitch Battle captures a human story of ordinary players who love football but who’ve become pawns in a deadly international political game.
It won a 2015 Australian Sports Commission award, a 2016 Ellie award and a 2016 New York Festivals International Television and Film Award.