West Bank v Gaza game – the first since 2000

West Bank v Gaza game – the first since 2000

Efforts by the Palestinian FA at the May 2015 FIFA Congress to free up movements for Palestinian footballers have succeeded.  In June the Palestinian team left the West Bank unhindered for a game in Saudi Arabia.  On 4th August 2015 a West Bank team travelled to Gaza after a few days prevarication by the Israelis.

So the demands of Palestinian FA’s Amendment to its original proposal to the FIFA Congress have been observed in respect of players’ movements, even before the Monitoring Group has had its first meeting (now due on 26 August 2015).  The next test will be travel for the Gazan team to the West Bank for the return match next Sunday in the West Bank.  It remains to be seen how far the Israelis will conform to the other terms of the Palestinian Amendment.  Without this the 2016 FIFA Congress could see a further call for suspension of the Israeli FA.

The text of the Reuter’s report is as follows:

A Palestinian team from the Gaza Strip will host West Bank opposition for the first time in 15 years on Thursday after Israel gave the visitors permission to cross its territory for the clash between the two lands’ respective cup holders.

The Gaza Strip’s Shejaia and Al-Ahly from Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank will play in a fixture that appeared in doubt before the permit granted by Israel, whose territory separates Gaza and the West Bank.

The return leg in Hebron is scheduled for Aug. 9 and the winners of the Palestine Cup will play in the next Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

Prior to Al-Ahly’s arrival in Gaza on Tuesday, Palestinian officials said Israel was blocking the team’s entry. They had originally been expected to enter Gaza on Monday.

Gaza sports official Abdel-Salam Haniyeh said Israel appeared to have relented under international pressure and a complaint by the Palestine FA (PFA) to world soccer’s governing body FIFA.

The Israeli office that oversees movement in and out of Gaza told Reuters that Al-Ahly’s travel had been approved but did not comment whether there was a change of heart or a delay in issuing the team’s travel permits.

Haniyeh said the match was a milestone for Palestinian soccer and could lead to unified competitions for Gaza and West Bank teams. Palestinians want the two territories to be part of a future independent state, together with East Jerusalem.

“This is an achievement for the Palestinian sports family and is a first step towards a unified Palestinian league and cup tournament,” Haniyeh told Reuters at a lavish reception for the West Bank visitors at a Gaza hotel.

“I am full of honour and pride, this is the first time I have ever visited Gaza and I can’t find the words to describe my feelings,” Al-Ahly forward Khaldon al-Halman told Reuters.

Israel took all three territories in a 1967 war. It quit Gaza in 2005 but maintains a partial blockade of the territory ruled by the Islamist Hamas group. Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008. A ceasefire has prevailed since August 2014 following a 50-day conflict.

The Reuter’s report is at: Soccer-Palestinian West
Bank soccer team to play in Gaza for first time since 2000

This was also reported by Al Jazeera:  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/west-bank-football-team-gaza-historic-match-150804125312421.html  with a short video of the team’s arrival and a statement by the West Bank team’s coach Stephano Cosina.


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