Palestinian football association to switch home World Cup qualifier to Saudi Arabia

Saudi team would have needed to travel through checkpoints operated by Israel, a country it holds no diplomatic ties with, to play in the West Bank.

June 8, 2015 13:50
2 minute read.

A Saudi Arabian woman waves the national flag during a soccer match at the West Asian Games in Doha. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Palestinian Football Association has given up home advantage for Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia after the oil-rich kingdom cited "exceptional conditions" for their inability to travel to the West Bank.

The Group A match, the first for both teams in the second round of joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying, was scheduled to be played at Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium but will now take place in Jeddah.

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The Saudi team would have needed to travel through checkpoints operated by Israel, a country it holds no diplomatic ties with, to play the fixture in the West Bank.

"Saudi Arabia requested the Palestinian FA to move the match to Saudi Arabia," Tayseer Nasrallah, spokesman of the Palestinian Football Association and a board member told Reuters by telephone from Ramallah.

"The Saudis said they had some exceptional conditions and they would not be able to visit at this time."

Nasrallah said they had told the Saudis they wanted the return match, scheduled to be played in October in Jeddah, to be switched to the West Bank in return for accommodating the late request.

"In light of the discussion we have agreed to play the first Saudi Arabia on condition that the return match will be played in Palestine on Oct. 3, the agreement was reached upon this understanding.

"We have stressed to our Arab brothers the importance that they support Palestine's right to host matches."

The West Bank hosted matches against Afghanistan and Thailand at the Faisal Al-Husseini stadium in 2011 in their failed bid to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Last month, the Palestinian Football Association dropped its motion to world governing body FIFA to have Israel suspended for violating rules relating to racism and the free movement of players.

In return, FIFA agreed to send observers to monitor the freedom of players and officials to travel to and from the West Bank.

Nasrallah said the West Bank team would leave on Monday for Jordan en route to Saudi Arabia, adding they would have to pick up the bill for all expenses.
West Bank teams will travel to Kuala Lumpur to play Malaysia on June 16 before they host United Arab Emirates in September.

Like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and the UAE have no diplomatic relations with Israel.

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