Palestine ordered to play qualifiers on neutral territory


  • Football
  • Wednesday, 04 Nov 2015

A reporter uses his cell phone as he walks past a FIFA logo in front of FIFA headquarters before a press conference of the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich October 29, 2007. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

ZURICH (Reuter) - FIFA have reversed their decision to allow Palestine to host Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia at home, ordered that it be played on neutral territory and postponed the game until Monday.

FIFA said on Wednesday that their emergency committee, headed by Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, had also ordered Palestine's game at home to Malaysia next week to be played elsewhere.

FIFA said the decision "followed a meeting held in Palestine yesterday (Tuesday) between FIFA’s security officer and local authorities, after which the Palestinian government confirmed that it could no longer guarantee the safety and security around the matches in question."

"In view of this, the Emergency Bureau for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers has confirmed that the security guarantees cannot be compromised and that both matches need to be played on neutral ground."

FIFA said that Saudi Arabia fixture would be played on Nov. 9 and the Malaysia match would be played on Nov. 12 as planned.

"FIFA has asked the Palestinian Football Association to provide details on the neutral ground in Asia that will host both matches," said the statement.

FIFA said the emergency committee also included Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay and Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium, who like Sheikh Salman are members of FIFA's executive committee.

Saudi Arabia had previously declined to play the fixture in September, saying they could not travel to the Palestinian territories due to force majeure.

On Oct 21, FIFA said that it had been agreed to stage the game in Palestine.

The Saudi team, whose government does not recognise Israel, would have to pass through an Israeli border post to reach Palestine's Faisal Husseini stadium in Al-Ram.

Saudi Arabia lead Group A in the second round of Asian qualifying after winning all their first four games. Palestine are third with five points.

Wednesday’s announcement came hours after Malaysian sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin said they were prepared to travel to Palestine for the Nov. 12 game.

"I am confident that they can go to Palestine. I have communicated with the Palestinian ambassador to Malaysia and he has given his assurance of safety for our team in Hebron," he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

"I, myself, have received a personal assurance from the Palestinian ambassador and he will personally accompany our team from the border to the stadium.

"He said the Palestinian government will facilitate our team's passage through checkpoints controlled by the Israeli regisaudme," Khairy added.

(additional reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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