Shalom Life | September 23, 2015

Palestinians Delay Soccer Championship, Blame Israel for Blocking Players

Four athletes were unable to cross into Israel because they neglected to appear at interviews

By: B. Shane Morganstein

Published: August 10th, 2015 in Sports » World

Palestinians Delay Soccer Championship, Blame Israel for Blocking Players

Photo: Fans watching first leg of the Palestine Cup final between Shejaia and Al-Ahly


It seems that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is continuing to bleed into the world of international soccer. After some serious problems at FIFA between the two groups, the Palestinian Football Federation has now postponed the final game of its Palestine Cup after Israeli officials denied entry permits to some of team Gaza’s players, sports officials are reporting.

The Saja’iyya club from Gaza, in order to reach the championship in the West Bank city of Hebron, must pass through an Israeli border crossing, which requires permission from the Israeli government.

Israel has responded to the allegations, confirming that the players were blocked from crossing the checkpoint. Israeli government officials say that four players blocked from crossing neglected to appear at their special questioning interviews, which were scheduled for Thursday. Since the players did not show up to their interviews, they were not given permission to cross the checkpoint.

“It became clear seven people, including four players were not on the list and therefore, the entire mission can’t leave Gaza without them,” explained Ala Shammaly of the Saja’iyya media office.

The Israeli government was also reportedly willing to allow the rest of the team to cross the checkpoint, with the 4 players meeting the team later in the weekend after they could be questioned.

The championship game, which took place Sunday, was to be a follow-up of Thursday’s match between Al-Ahly, the top team of the West Bank, and Gaza’s champion Saja’iyya.

The game, which was the first of its kind since a Palestinian uprising broke out in 2000, will see the victor graduate to compete in the next Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

“As always the Israeli occupation wanted to spoil our happiness. Effort by the Palestinian FA is continuing to allow the joy that began in Gaza from reaching out to Hebron,” said Abdel-Salam Haniyeh of the Palestinian Higher Council of Sport.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories responded to the allegations, calling the team’s decision not to cross “another cheap provocation” by the the Palestinian FA’s chairman Jibril Al-Rajoub. “The Palestinians make cynical use of sport and in the end the ones hurt are the Palestinian people.”

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