Blatter promises help for Palestinian team
FIFA President Sepp Blatter promised to help the Palestinian
national team during his tour of the West Bank on Sunday.
Members of the Palestinian squad are split between the West Bank
and Gaza and often unable to move from one territory to the other
due to Israeli security restrictions.
At the FIFA Congress held in Mauritius in May, football’s
governing body called on Blatter to ”try to improve the situation
of football in Palestine.”
On Sunday, Blatter urged Israel to remove the travel
restrictions and give greater respect to Palestinian athletes,
saying that the current situation violates FIFA’s charter.
”I’m on a mission…to transmit to the political authority in
Israel the problems that you are facing here,” Blatter told an
audience at Al-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The crowd included Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who
praised Blatter for his contributions to global and Palestinian
sports. Blatter received an honorary Ph.D. in administration from
the university on Sunday.
”I’m a global citizen but my heart beats for Palestine,” said
Blatter, adding he would invite Mohammed Assaf, the Palestinian
singer who won the ”Arab Idol” reality show, to sing at the World
Cup in Brazil next year.
Blatter began his visit in the northern West Bank city of
Tulkarem, where he inaugurated a new $500,000 football pitch
sponsored by FIFA. He was greeted by folk dancing and flowers
carried by young girls in traditional Palestinian costumes.
While Blatter sounded positive notes, telling the crowd that
soccer ”shall give hope, hope for you, hope for Palestine,” the
president of the Palestine Football Association was more
”(Blatter) is here to dissolve the Israeli occupation’s siege
on Palestinian sport,” Jibril Rajoub said. Later, during a speech
at An-Najah University, he claimed ”there should be no place (in
FIFA and the Olympics) for those who continue their racist
Rajoub said Blatter will meet Israeli officials this week and
convey the FIFA Congress’ call for Israel to ease restrictions on
Palestinian players. The Israeli Football Association said it
wouldn’t comment until it had met Blatter.
Blatter is scheduled to visit several more FIFA-sponsored
projects in the West Bank later Sunday.