CAIRO: The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has rejected a FIFA decision to change the location of a Palestinian-Saudi game initially planned in Ramallah Oct. 13.
The PFA accused its Saudi counterpart of “exploiting the FIFA chaos” after the latter approved the change upon a Saudi request on grounds of opposing “normalization with Israel.” The Saudi team was supposed to cross into Ramallah in the West Bank through a Jordanian crossing that is overseen by Israel to play the game qualifying to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE.)
Jebril al-Rajoub, head of the PFA, labeled the FIFA decision “unjust,” saying that the Palestinian team is entitled to play its games on its land before its Palestinian supporters in Faisal al-Husseiny Stadium.
The “neutral” pitch that Saudi Arabia asked for has not been determined yet, but Sport KSA website reported that Jordan is the most probably option, as Saudi Arabia also refused playing the game in Gaza, whose crossing with Egypt is not controlled by Israel.
The Saudi request and the FIFA approval is perceived by Arab sports observers a setback for recognizing the Palestinian national team and its right to play on Palestinian territory, amid Israeli violations committed against Palestinian football locally, according to Palestinian statement.
Rajoub cited the game with the UAE earlier in September in the Faisal al-Husseiny Stadium in the same competition amid “great reception” for the UAE players, who also visited al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.
Amid ongoing clashes at al-Aqsa Mosque between Palestinians and the Israeli police in the past two weeks, Saudi Arabia strongly denounced the Israeli attacks on the site, triggered by alleged Palestinian attempts to prevent Jewish visits to the compound.
Additional reporting by Marwan Essam