July 4 – Footballing tensions in the Middle East have flared up again making FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s comments at the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop in Bahrain look even more absurd than they did at the time of the summit at the end of June.
Infantino said that “we will do our part at FIFA,” he said. “Let’s do something tangible and concrete that people can see, and when kids play football, first they smile and, secondly, they don’t do other things.”
Less than two weeks later the Palestine Football Association (PFA) have been force to postpone the final of the Palestine Cup after Israel denied Gaza-based players permits to travel.
The second leg of the final between Balata FC and Khadamat Rafah, winners of the West Bank and Gaza leagues respectively, was due have taken place on Wednesday. The first leg, played on Sunday in Gaza, ended 1-1.
The West Bank and Gaza are separated by Israel, with Palestinians looking to travel between the two forced to apply for Israeli permits.
“Out of the 35 people on the Khadamat Rafah delegation list, only 4 were approved; the Club President, Vice President, one doctor, and one single player. Two ‘extra’ administrators would be approved provided they agree to undergo interrogation at the Israeli-controlled crossing between the southern and northern governorate,” said a PFA press release.
Israel have blocked players, teams and equipment moving freely on an on-going basis and was the concern of a FIFA Task Force that was attempting to find a solution until Infantino abandoned it, once taking power, under the pretext that FIFA could not solve the political issues of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
FIFA doesn’t seem to want to solve the football ones either though on the politics Infantino has clearly changed tack with his naively effervescent eagerness to take the political platform provided by US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in Bahrain.
“While more football is being discussed as a “bridge for peace “in some political workshops, convened in the absence of Palestinians, the foundations for these bridges are being torn down by the occupation. The sad truth remains that, while more football pitches are promised, it remains questionable whether we can actually use these football-pitches-to-be with our footballers’ movement thus restricted, and while the equipment to build our football infrastructure continues to be held by the Israelis,” said the PFA press release.
“We call upon the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, and the six Football Confederations under its umbrella to help the Palestine Football Association safeguard its right to play football, and its obligation to organize National Competitions and participate in international competitions by taking effective measures to make sure football is played in Palestine without hindrance.”
That request, fair as it is, is probably as delusional as Infantino’s Bahrain blundering.
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