Soccer-Palestinian national team to host Jordan on home soil
RAMALLAH, West Bank |
RAMALLAH, West Bank Oct 23 (Reuters) - The Palestinian national team will play its first match on home soil on Sunday when they host Jordan in an international friendly at a new stadium near Jerusalem, the Palestinian FA chairman said.
Previously, Palestine played all their matches abroad, mainly in the Gulf, because soccer's world governing body, FIFA, deemed the Palestinian territories unsafe to host visiting teams.
"(Sunday will be) an important day for Palestinians as for the first time... there will be an international match between Palestine and Jordan in Jerusalem," Palestinian FA chairman Jibril Rajoub said on Thursday.
Rajoub, a former Palestinian security chief, has been instrumental in the revival of soccer in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who on Sunday begins a four-day visit to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, will attend the match at a new stadium in A-Ram near Jerusalem.
Rajoub said national team coach Izzat Hamza, a Jordanian, would select many young players for the fixture.
Palestinian soccer saw the start of a revival in the West Bank in August with the relaunch of a semi-professional league that was suspended after a violent Palestinian uprising against Israel erupted in 2000.
Teams from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which has been blockaded by Israel since the Islamist group won a parliamentary election two years ago, do not take part in league matches.
The Israeli blockade was tightened last year when Hamas seized control of the coastal territory after routing Fatah forces loyal to President Abbas.
The modern Palestinian FA, which represents the Palestinian territories, was officially recognised by FIFA in 1998. The original Palestine FA formed in 1928 by Jewish players was the precursor to the Israeli FA.
(Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Ken Ferris)
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