FIFA President Sepp Blatter has proposed a “peace match” between Palestine and Israel during his visit to the divided Middle Eastern region in an attempt to find alternatives for the AFC member association’s desires to have Israel suspended by the world governing body.
With FIFA Congress to be held on Friday next week, the Palestine Football Association have again pushed for Israel’s suspension due to the nation’s unwillingness to allow Palestinian players and equipment to pass through the Gaza Strip, allowing Israeli teams in Palestine-occupied territories and failing to take action against anti-Arab racism in Israeli matches.
Jibril Rajoub, head of the PFA who was well-known as a key figure in Yasser Arafat’s political movement, said after a meeting with Blatter and the Israel Football Asociation head that he was given no choice but to continue the requests due to the lack of improvement since previous requests for suspension over the last two years.
“Nothing is changing because of Israel’s intransigence,” said Rajoub. “And that’s why we’re raising it a third time at the FIFA Congress. This time, I assure you, nothing will stop us.
“We will never, ever accept any compromise, any agreement or deal outside the Congress.
“If the other side insists on causing us suffering, we are not using violence or weapons, we are using the legal leverage of the FIFA statutes. This is nothing to do with politics, this is a sport issue.”
On the other side of the border, IFA chief executive Rotem Kamer said his hands were tied in trying to change government restrictions.
“I don’t think there is any football association around the world,” explained Kamer, “which can tell its government how to deal with security issues, including the Israeli Football Association.”
Blatter met with Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday on what he called a “mission of piece,” in which he also met with Rajoub and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.
After his meeting with Netanyahu on Tuesday, Blatter told media that one item discussed was the idea to “arrange a match for peace between the national teams of Israel and Palestine” and that FIFA would be “happy to organise it.”
“Yes, [Benjamin Netanyahu] said that,” confirmed Blatter, “that if a game will be played between Palestine and Israel and we organize it in Zurich, he will be there and he said he would shake hands with everybody.
“We would be happy – FIFA in Zurich – to accept the organization of such a competition.”
Without providing details, Netanyahu confirmed that Israel “will discuss a certain number of measures that could improve the situation” for Palestinian football.
The suspension would require a vote of 75% or more at next week’s FIFA Congress to be passed, which would ban Israel and its clubs from continental (UEFA) and global competition.