Palestinian Soccer Match – a precursor to World Cup?

My friend Eytan Heller conceived this fantastic inspirational video and campaign (sponsored by PeaceWorks Foundation) allegorically calling for the 2018 World Cup to be co-hosted by Israel and Palestine – to help Palestinians and Israelis visualize what a peace agreement could bring about.  It is part of the Imagine 2018 campaign of the OneVoice Movement.

Now life is moving in the direction of civic activism and art.

Tomorrow for the first time in history, an international match (between Jordan and Palestine) will be held in the West Bank town of Ram, at a Palestinian stadium built to FIFA’s standards, and attended by FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter.

In soccer, the Palestinians are on the map

By The Associated Press

Palestinian national soccer team to host for the first time an international game in renovated W. Bank stadium.
This weekend, the Palestinian national team will host for the first time an international game in a West Bank stadium upgraded to meet the standards of FIFA, soccer’s governing body.
Until now, the decade-old team has played home games in Jordan and Qatar.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter will attend Sunday’s exhibition match against Jordan in the 6,000-seat Faisal Husseini Stadium in the town of Ram, just outside Jerusalem. The stadium was renovated for a sum of $4 million.
Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, told reporters Thursday that hosting an international match is a historic day in the life of the Palestinian people.
Both Blatter and Rajoub will be attending a conference hosted by the Peres Center for Peace next week, at which they will participate in a panel on the power of sport to bring people together.
Still, politics overshadowed the event. Six of the team’s 26 members, including captain Saeb Jundiyeh, are still in Gaza, awaiting word from Israel on whether they will be permitted to travel to the West Bank. Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the travel request.
Gaza has been virtually cut off from the world since the Islamic militant Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007. Hamas and the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who runs the West Bank, are bitter rivals. Gaza and the West Bank lie on opposite sides of Israel.
Rajoub, a former security chief in the West Bank, on Thursday asked Hamas leaders to set up large TV screens for communal viewing of the game. The prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, is a soccer enthusiast.
We want to keep sports away from the political debate, Rajoub said of the rivalry with Hamas. We don’t want Palestinian sport to be a victim of personal agendas.
Blatter is attending Sunday’s game as part of a four-day visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. In the West Bank, he will also open a women’s soccer tournament, Rajoub said.
The Palestinians are ranked 180th of 207 members by FIFA, peaking at No. 115 in April 2006.

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