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Photo: AFP
Historic game in Al-Ram
Photo: AFP
Landmark Saudi-Palestine World Cup qualifier ends in goalless draw
Arab teams have historically refused to play in Palestinian territory, and the game marks a change in policy for the Saudi kingdom; all tickets at 8,000 stadium near Ramallah were given away free, with thousands queuing to get in
A landmark soccer match between the Saudi Arabian and Palestinian national teams in the West Bank ended in a goalless draw Tuesday.

  

 

The two met in a qualifier for the 2022 World Cup at the Palestinian national stadium in Al-Ram, near Ramallah, playing out a 0-0 draw. The Saudi team was playing in the West Bank for the first time, having previously refused to enter the territory as part of its boycott of Israel.

  

Pictures, from left, of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, adorn the stadium as fans cheer for their team during a FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifying Group Four soccer match between Palestine and Saudi Arabia, at Faisal Husseini Stadium, in the West Bank, Oct. 15. 2019 (Photo: AFP)
Pictures, from left, of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, adorn the stadium as fans cheer for their team during a FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifying Group Four soccer match between Palestine and Saudi Arabia, at Faisal Husseini Stadium, in the West Bank, Oct. 15. 2019 (Photo: AFP)

Cheered on by a packed and vociferous home stadium, Palestine frustrated their more prestigious guests and came close multiple times, but neither side were ultimately able to make the breakthrough.

 

With significant excitement over the match, all tickets at the 8,000 stadium were given away free on the day, with thousands in often disorderly queues to get in.

 

Hundreds of others watched from windows or roofs of buildings overlooking the stadium, which is only a few metres from the Israeli barrier that cuts off the West Bank from Jerusalem.

 

Palestinian soccer fans queue for free tickets for the match (Photo: AFP)
Palestinian soccer fans queue for free tickets for the match (Photo: AFP)

 

Arab clubs and national teams have historically refused to play in the Palestinian territory -- occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War -- as it requires obtaining entry permits from Israel, a country most of them do not recognize.

 

The game marked a change in policy for the kingdom, which has previously played matches against Palestine in third countries, in line with a decades-long Arab boycott of Israel.

 

However, in recent years, common concerns over Iran are widely seen as having brought the Gulf powerhouse and Israel -- both staunch U.S. allies -- closer together.

 

Women football fans wave Palestinian flags as they attend the World Cup 2022 qualifier match between Palestine and Saudi Arabia in the West Bank, Oct. 15, 2019
Women football fans wave Palestinian flags as they attend the World Cup 2022 qualifier match between Palestine and Saudi Arabia in the West Bank, Oct. 15, 2019

The Palestinian Football Association described the Saudi team's arrival in the Palestinian territories as a "win-win" situation.

 

Critics see it as a step toward normalization with Israel, and Lebanon, Syria and Egypt still refuse to play in the Palestinian territories.

 

But other countries such as Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Oman have sent their teams to play in the West Bank.

 


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas receives a T-shirt from the Saudi Football Federation chief Yasser Almisehal during a meeting with the Saudi Arabia national football team in Ramallah, Oct. 13, 2019
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas receives a T-shirt from the Saudi Football Federation chief Yasser Almisehal during a meeting with the Saudi Arabia national football team in Ramallah, Oct. 13, 2019

 

The Saudi delegation on Monday visited the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

 

At the stadium, large Palestinian and Saudi flags had been erected on the building behind it.

 

"God, Palestine and Jerusalem is Arab," the fans chanted, with the stadium only a few miles from the holy city.

  

There were no Saudi fans at the stadium but pictures of Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman were erected alongside Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat.

 

Palestinians in the West Bank have to go through Israeli checkpoints to leave and many have little experience of the wider Middle East.

 


Palestine's starting eleven pose for a group picture before the World Cup 2022 qualifying match against Saudi Arabia in the West Bank, Oct. 15, 2019
Palestine's starting eleven pose for a group picture before the World Cup 2022 qualifying match against Saudi Arabia in the West Bank, Oct. 15, 2019
 

Wajd Waji, 20, was among a group of four young men wearing Palestinian football shirts.

 

"It will be the first time I have seen a Saudi person in real life," he told AFP.

 

"We meet them all the time on (online computer game) PubG. They are always rude on PubG so we want to shout at them."

 

Only one of the players in the first 11 was from Gaza, the other part of the Palestinian territories under a blockade by Israel, which Jerusalem says is in place to thwart terrorism from the coastal enclave ruled by Hamas.

 

The winners of the two cups in the West Bank and Gaza are meant to play each other annually but this year it has been delayed for months after Israel refused permits to most of the Gazan team's players.


Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Madu, left, passes Palestine's Tamer Seyam during their World Cup qualifyier in the West Bank Oct. 15. 2019
Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Madu, left, passes Palestine's Tamer Seyam during their World Cup qualifyier in the West Bank Oct. 15. 2019

 

The Palestinians had the first real chance, with striker Saleh Chihadeh hitting the keeper in the 10th minute.

 

The Saudis could have scored as well in the first half but Yahya Al-Shehri's strike was well saved.

 

In a second half short of chances, Palestinian substitute Khaled Salem flicked a shot over the bar in the final minutes.

 


פרסום ראשון: 10.15.19, 22:20
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