FIFA to pay for repairs to Gaza soccer field shelled by IDF

FIFA decided to pay for repairs to the field after it deemed the direct strike was "without any reason"

By JEREMY LAST, AP
April 12, 2006 10:49
2 minute read.
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fifa 88. (photo credit: )

 
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FIFA announced Tuesday that it will pay for the "rehabilitation" of a soccer field in the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip, which was damaged by IDF artillery fire earlier this month. "In the world of today, which is disrupted by long-lasting disputes and violence, football is one of the very few universal tools mankind can use to bridge gaps between nations and peoples, and to symbolize what unites our planet over what divides it," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said. World soccer's governing body said it would evaluate the extent of the damage done to the open-air stadium and its stands over the next few days, with the help of the Palestinian FA. Much would depend on whether the drainage system was badly damaged. "FIFA's role is not to reprimand, but to help create bonds and ensure that the young people of the region have hope and the possibility to enjoy the school of life that football represents," Blatter said. "Therefore, I call on the relevant authorities to do everything they can to allow Palestinian and Israeli football to develop." FIFA stressed that it supported Palestinian and Israeli football equally. While UEFA banned Israeli clubs and the national team from playing international competitions at home between October 2001 and April 2004 because of a series of terrorist attacks, FIFA ensured that Tel Aviv hosted the Israeli national team's qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup. FIFA decided to pay for repairs to the field after it deemed the direct strike was "without any reason" and that the soccer field was not being used by Palestinians as a missile launching pad, as Israel's ambassador to Switzerland had originally claimed. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday last week Jerome Champagne, the delegate to FIFA's president for special affairs, confirmed that he was "not happy with the situation" after learning that the IDF had fired at the stadium to "send a message to the Palestinians". However, according to the Israel Football Association, Champagne then called the IFA on Friday to discuss the situation with IFA General Secretary Haim Zimmer. An IFA statement said that Champagne said Israeli ambassador Aviv Shiron had told him the reason for the fire was that Kassams had been fired from close to the stadium and that he "had accepted the explanation". No FIFA spokesman was available for a response when questioned about the apparenty discrepancy. No casualties were reported in the April 1 strike, which left a large crater in the center of the field. The Israeli military said there had not been any rocket fire from the soccer field, but that the airstrike was part of an effort to deter possible attacks after an increase in rocket launches from Gaza. The IDF artillery fire came in response to Palestinian Kassam rocket attacks into Israel, including one which hit a soccer field in Kibbutz Karmiya, close to Ashkelon the day before.

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