It is said in Chile that there isn’t a village lacking a curate, a policeman, and a Palestinian. Palestinians have always suffered oppression as far as time can tell and so is the case when it comes to CD Palestino. A team established by Palestinian immigrants to create a sense of belonging and pride. Chile is home to the biggest Palestinian population outside of the Arab states with around 500,000 people with Palestinian descendancy residing in the South American state. Palestinians first started migrating to Chile in the 1850s during the Crimean war, fleeing Russia’s intent to capture and control the Holy land. Chilean Palestinians were often referred to as Turcos [Spanish for Turks] due to the Ottoman nationality that early immigrants had on their passports. Contrary to the immigration of European nationals, Palestinian immigration alongside that of Japanese and Chinese nationals was not seen beneficial by Chilean intellectuals and thus Xenophobia and racism thrived. Palestinian immigrants didn’t get any help from the press either, El Mercurio wrote on 13th April 1911: “Whether they are Mohammedans or Buddhists, what one can see and smell from far, is that they are more dirty than the dogs of Constantinople…”
A group of Palestinian immigrants established the club on 20th August 1920 when they participated in a colonial competition in Osorno. The club even became more popular among Palestinians during the 1948 Israeli-Arab war as new Palestinian immigrants flocked to Santiago’s Patronato’s neighbourhood. The club sports’ the Palestinian colours and is a great source of pride not only to the Palestinian community in Chile but also Palestinians all over the globe and those who believe in the Palestinian course.
In January 2014 the club replaced the number one on their jerseys’ with an elongated map of pre 1948 Palestine, But Chile’s somewhat 10,000 Jewish population protested against such ”political exploitation of football”, with a formal complaint being made to the federation by Patrick Kiblisky, owner of first division side Nublense. Soon after the Jersey’s were banned and the club fined $1,500 by the Chilean Football Federation on the grounds that it is opposed to “any form of political,religious,sexual,ethnic,social or racial discrimination.The players then tattooed the map of Palestine on their forearms. On its Facebook page the club stated :”For us, Free Palestine will be historical Palestine nothing less.Other first division sides showed their support by waving the Palestinian flag at matches.
In 1952 the Football Federation in Chile the first professional leagues, Palestino was accepted into the second division, which they won and thus promotion into the Primera Division, which they ended up winning for the first time in 1955 under Argentine Guillermo Coll. The Club was nicknamed Millonario because of their ability to attract top class players as they were financially backed by wealthy Palestinian families who owned large textile companies, the businesses were set up in the 1930s after the Palestinian immigrants became assimilated into the Chilean middle class.
The club won the double in 1978, after winning their second league title and a second Copa Chile this time under Chilean Elias Figueroa. This was a campaign which they set a new record in the league for the number of games unbeaten. The following year the club took part in the Copa Liberadortes for the first time and ended up finishing first in their group with 14 points beating Venezuelan sides Galicia and Portuguesa 5-0 and 6-0 respectively and qualified for the semi finals stage where they finished bottom of their group with zero wins, two draws and two losses having drawn eventual winners Olimpia and Guarani. The club ended a 40 year wait for a major throphy when they won the Copa Chile for the third time in 2018 a victory which saw the Chilean side secure a spot in the 2019 Copa Libertadores qualification and after beating Argentinian side Talleres 4-3 on aggregate in the final qualifying round the team secured a Libertadores group stage birth and were drawn in group A [the group of death] against holders River plate, Brazilian giants Internacional and Peruvian side Alianza Lima. They had a decent showing and led by former Inter Milan and local boy Luis Jimenez finished third in the group earning a Copa sudamerican spot but lost to Venezuelan side Zulia.
In 2016 the Arabs qualified for the Copa Sudamericana round of sixteen after beating Libertad and Real Garcilaso in the previous stages meeting Brazilian giants Flamengo who they beat after a 2-2 Aggregate score, they eventualy lost to San Lorenzo in the quarter finals.
Ex Palestinian international footballer and former Palestino player of Palestinian origin Roberto Kettlun had only good things to say about his two year stint at the club saying that it was an amazing experience and one that drew him closer to his origins and provided a platform for his move to Greece. The club is widely followed by Palestinians across the globe as Chilean radio commentator Sebastian Manriquez put it, “UD Palestino stands not only for a football club in La Cistrena, but for a well-respected community in Chile, for where their founders, fans’ ancestors came from and for the people who are suffering in an endless conflict in the Middle east. Palestino, is oppositeto other diaspora football clubs in our country, plays every match with their mind’s in the field but their hearts kilometres away, it is common that every palestino match becomes a hard, fierce and battled confrontation.”
And for such reasons Palestinians all over the planet, with or without a love for football admire and appreciate the club that they see is in a struggle for them and with them.