By Sammy Baroud
Oday Dabbagh is Palestine’s brightest young football talent. Commentators and fans have already identified him as the future of Palestinian football.
The young Jerusalemite, who lined up for top-flight Portuguese club Arouca in August 2021, has continuously impressed this season as one of Liga Portugal’s most promising strikers.
The 24-year-old Palestine international has accumulated 7 goals in just 8 starts (games that he played in the starting 11) in Liga Portugal this season, and 11 goals in 12 starts in all club competitions. These excellent goal tallies are a testament to his potential and should do away with any doubt critics held previously about if Dabbagh could succeed in Europe.
Yet, to fully establish himself in Europe’s elite, the sky’s the limit for the young striker who has just made a transfer from Arouca to Belgian league side Royal Charleroi Sporting Club.
Due to Dabbagh’s upward trend as a prolific goal scorer, a high-profile move to a team in the top 5 leagues is becoming more likely by the day. While his contributions to the future of Palestinian football are becoming more obvious, can Dabbagh’s career stretch beyond that? Should football fans be asking if Dabbagh can distinguish himself as one of the future trailblazers of Arab football alongside the likes of names like Achraf Hakimi and Yousef En-Nesyri?
Let’s rewind several seasons so we can understand this extraordinary story that caused Dabbagh to reach elite European football.
Dabbagh started off his career with a 2 season stint in the West Bank Premier League playing in the city of his birth for Hilal Al Quds. He started racking up goals and swept two West Bank League titles along the way before playing in Kuwait for a number of years.
In Kuwait, he played for several clubs between July 2019 and August 2021, when he suited up for Al Arabi SC, Al Qadsia SC, and Al Salmiya SC. He picked up one Premier Division (Kuwaiti League) title during his time there.
In late June 2021, during an Arab Cup Qualifier game for the Palestine National Team against the Comoros, Dabbagh had a sensational performance with 3 total goal contributions (including 1 goal and 2 assists) during Palestine’s 5-1 win, which qualified them for the FIFA Arab Cup.
It was clear that Dabbagh’s brilliant performance on the international stage played a huge role in Arouca picking him up that summer for 700,000 euros. Upon Dabbagh’s arrival to Liga Portugal, the league was briefly ranked as a top 5 league in the world above the French Ligue 1.
This transfer alone was a momentous moment in the history of Palestinian football as for the first time ever, we saw a Palestine national team footballer playing against legendary clubs like Sporting Lisbon, which formerly possessed legends like Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as Porto, which have a decorated history as former UEFA Champions League winners under Jose Mourinho.
While it was an achievement for Dabbagh to have made it to Liga Portugal, he was far from at his best when he came into the league. He had a slow start until the current 2022/23 season where he already has 11 goals and shows no sign of slowing down.
Now, with a 600,000 euro transfer to Charleroi, hopefully, he can continue this form to bring his new club far above their current 12th-place spot in the Belgian Pro League.
What’s Next For Dabbagh?
Dabbagh has found a new football home in Europe and if he continues with this form, he isn’t leaving European football any time soon. But to truly rank among Europe’s elite, it is integral for Dabbagh to make a move to a bigger team in the Top 5 Leagues.
It must be noted that Dabbagh took a very unorthodox route to European football.
Starting in an Arab team setup and seeking bigger opportunities is very much possible with examples coming to mind such as Liverpool Star Mohamed Salah, rising to stardom after starting his career at Mokawloon Al Arab. However, starting in the West Bank League and making it into a top European league was unheard of before Oday Dabbagh proved it possible.
While Dabbagh is yet to make it to the caliber of Paris Saint-Germain’s Moroccan superstar Achraf Hakimi – who is of Dabbagh’s age – the Palestinian football star didn’t start his career moving through the youth ranks to the first team of Real Madrid.
Indeed, Dabbagh is already ahead of where some world-class footballers were at similar ages – like Jamie Vardy, for example, who was in the lower divisions of England at the same age. This shows that Dabbagh still has the potential to become one of the Arab World’s best footballers.
With his natural goal-scoring ability, his passion for doing the ‘impossible’, along with a tendency to always disprove the critics, the 24-year-old Palestinian Jerusalemite Oday Ibrahim Dabbagh is destined for greatness.
(Photos: Oday Dabbagh’s Instagram Profile)
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