Palestinians play football in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on January 12, 2013
Palestinians play football in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on January 12, 2013. Israel has bowed to pressure from UEFA to allow Arab youth football teams into the Palestinian territories, having initially denied them entry, a Jordanian official said on Friday. © Abbas Momani - AFP/File
Palestinians play football in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on January 12, 2013
<
>
AFP
Last updated: August 17, 2013

Israel to let Arab youth teams into West Bank

Israel has bowed to pressure from UEFA to allow Arab youth football teams into the Palestinian territories, having initially denied them entry, a Jordanian official said on Friday, while FIFA also said it had stepped in.

Israel's refusal to grant West Bank entry to players and coaching staff delayed the West Asia Football Federation's (WAFF) Under-17's Championship, which was to begin on Thursday, pitting the Palestinian team against Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

"WAFF President (Jordan's) Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein and FIFA's vice-president intervened with UEFA to settle this issue," WAFF secretary-general Fadi Zureiqat told AFP.

"Israel capitulated (to the pressure) and allowed entry permits for all the teams and officials," he said.

"The delegations have prepared to set off for the West Bank via the King Hussein crossing (with Jordan). WAFF will hold a meeting this evening to decide the official programme, following the delay."

Separately, FIFA told AFP that it had interceded as soon as it received a letter from the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) on August 12.

The governing body of world football said it had immediately asked the Israel Football Association (IFA) to use its "good offices" in the dispute.

PFA chief Jibril al-Rujub said Israel had denied representatives of WAFF, which includes 12 Arab national football associations, permits to enter the occupied territories.

Three managers of the Jordanian football union, two UAE representatives and 13 managers and players from Iraq were refused entry, he said.

FIFA said that it had given the IFA a list of 29 players and officials who had not received the authorisation to enter, and that the IFA subsequently informed it that only six had been barred.

Rujub underlined that WAFF had contacted FIFA and the European football federation UEFA, to which Israel belongs, in an effort to "put pressure on Israel to issue the necessary permits" for the tournament to go ahead.

Israel had been due to supply permits for all the teams by August 10.

The PFA's director-general told AFP: "the Israeli civil administration informed me they have issued all the permits, and the teams can begin crossing into the West Bank from today."

The tournament would now start Sunday, he added.

WAFF's Zureiqat, meanwhile, said the Arab federation had sent the PFA the participating players' and managers' details six weeks ahead of the tournament so they could get the permits from Israel on time.

The teams were initially due to arrive three days ahead of Thursday's scheduled start.

It is the first time an Iraqi team will travel to the Palestinian territories, where several Arab countries refuse to play, opposing the fact that Israel decides whether or not they can enter.

The PFA had on Thursday urged FIFA to expel Israel from the international federation due to its stance on the tournament entry permits.

"We ask (FIFA) for a red card, because the yellow card has been raised now for a long time," Rujub told reporters in Ramallah.

FIFA did not react directly to that call on Friday but underlined that during a trip last month to the troubled region, its president Sepp Blatter had secured an agreement to create a task force involving the PFA, IFA, European governing body UEFA and its Asian counterpart the AFC.

For historical and political reasons, while Israel is a UEFA member, Arab nations are part of the AFC as well as the regional WAFF.

The task force is set to meet next month at FIFA's headquarters in the Swiss city of Zurich, it said.

"FIFA will pursue its mission to contribute to the overall development of football in the Middle East, in accordance with the FIFA Statutes," it said.

The Palestinian territories are also due to host the WAFF Under-21's Youth Championship in the first week of October.

blog comments powered by Disqus