Palestine Cup postponed due to Israeli travel restrictions

Players of Khadamat Rafah Club vie for the ball against Balata Sports Center during the first leg match of the Palestine Cup final in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 30, 2019. (AFP file photo)
Updated 04 July 2019

Palestine Cup postponed due to Israeli travel restrictions

  • The Palestine Cup is the top competition in Palestine that brings the champions of the men’s national league

AMMAN: Despite insistence by the president of FIFA of the importance of sports to peace, the head of the world body has been unable to ensure that a Palestinian championship match between a West Bank and a Gaza team take place.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) announced Tuesday that it had to postpone the Palestine Cup final due to take place in Nablus, between Balata FC, champions of the West Bank, and Khadamat Rafah, the Gaza champions, because of Israeli travel restrictions. After 1-1 draw last Sunday in Rafah and the two teams were to play the second leg of the final in the West Bank city of Nablus. According to a press statement issued by the PFA, “out of the 35 people on the Rafah team list, only four were approved; the club president, vice president, one doctor, and a single player. Two ‘extra’ administrators would be approved provided they agree to undergo interrogation at the Israeli-controlled crossing.”

The statement mocked the Israeli military saying “even in a surrealistic world, it is hard to imagine how these four (or six) gentlemen will be able to play the match!”

Susan Shalabi vice president of the Palestinian Football Association told Arab News that the FIFA headquarters were informed and they in turn passed the information to the Israeli association. “FIFA came back to us saying that the travel restrictions were for security reasons.” Shalabi called the Israeli use of the term security “the age-old cry of the oppressor.” She said that this excuse continues to be so conveniently employed by the Israeli occupation to hinder the development of Palestinian football, and deprive Palestinians of their basic rights guaranteed by the human rights charter, the Olympic charter, and FIFA statutes.”

“Ever since the cancelation (in October 2017) of the FIFA committee headed by Tokyo Sewali to investigate Israeli violations, the Israelis have felt impunity and have become much more active in denying travel permits. This has given them a free hand to reject without any reason or worry,” said Shalabi.

“The Palestine Cup is the top competition in Palestine that brings the champions of the men’s national league in the northern region (West Bank) and southern region (Gaza) together, yet Israeli restrictions make it almost impossible to hold the match every year.”

A spokesman for the coordinator of affairs in the Israeli defense ministry told Arab News that they had in fact received the list 14 days before the match but noted that this was untimely. “An examination of the issue shows that, in this case, a request was received on June 16, 2019 for permits for a delegation of 35 members of the Khadamat Rafah soccer team for the purpose of participating in the soccer game that was expected to have taken place on July 1, 2019. Although the application was untimely and therefore made appropriate processing pursuant to the clear guidelines impossible, COGAT went beyond that which was required of it, and, by means of all of the relevant parties, carefully reviewed the application. In this case, the applications of five of the delegation’s members were approved after they were extensively examined pursuant to the required criteria. The rest of the delegation’s members were not approved due to security considerations.

In its statement the Palestine Football Association indirectly referred to the recent US-led workshop in Bahrain in which the FIFA president spoke about sports and peace, saying that sport will give hopes and dreams to those in Gaza and West Bank. “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,” the PFA statement said.

The statement concluded by calling upon FIFA 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.”


Tyson Fury’s promoter says Saudi Arabia could host ‘Battle of the Brits’ heavyweight clash against Anthony Joshua

Updated 15 min 26 sec ago

Tyson Fury’s promoter says Saudi Arabia could host ‘Battle of the Brits’ heavyweight clash against Anthony Joshua

  • Frank Warren says the fighters will go where the money is
  • Anthony Joshua's promoter says 'huge site offer in place' for fight with Fury in Saudi Arabia

LONDON: World heavyweight champions Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua could fight in Saudi Arabia, Fury’s promoter said Sunday, after his boxer destroyed Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas.

Speculation is rife over who Fury will face next after the “Gypsy King” twice knocked down Wilder to seal an emphatic victory. Most pundits are hoping for a “Battle of the Brits” with Tyson and Joshua currently holding all four heavyweight belts between them.

Joshua fought Andy Ruiz Jr in Diriyah near Riyadh in December and his team said previously there is an offer to fight the winner of the Fury, Wilder fight in the Kingdom.

Fury was also inside a ring in Saudi Arabia in October when he took part in WWE’s Crown Jewel event in Riyadh. 

Frank Warren, Fury’s promoter, refused to rule out Saudi Arabia as a venue for the “Battle of the Brits.”

“In a dreamscape it should be in London but they’re professional athletes,” Warren said. “These guys have short careers, they go where the money is.

“It’s the boxers who get in the ring and they’ll make the choices.”

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said last month that they have a “huge site offer in place” for the fight to take place in Saudi Arabia. 

Describing it as a “big option,” Hearn said: “We have a partnership out there in Saudi Arabia.

“They put the money up for the Andy Ruiz fight. Everything they promised, they delivered.

“They want this fight bad and when they've got that kind of attitude and mentality, it's going to be difficult to beat.”

Several hurdles remain in place for Fury to face Joshua.

Wilder, who held his title for five years, has 30 days to invoke a rematch clause against Fury. 

Joshua is scheduled to fight Kubrat Pulev at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London in June, but Hearn has suggested that match could be canceled to make way for a clash with Fury.

Another obstacle would be how to split the prize money. Warren suggested a 50-50 split would be generous to Joshua after the scale of Fury’s win in Las Vegas.

“In my time I’ve been involved with some big fights and some big fighters,” Warren said. “This is without doubt the best performance by a British fighter - not abroad, but ever.”

Joshua’s fight against Ruiz was the biggest boxing event held in Saudi Arabia and part of a drive to make the Kingdom a venue for the world’s biggest sporting events.

The fight took place on a rainy night at the purpose built 15,000 seat Diriyah Arena.

Joshua beat Ruiz with a unanimous points decision from the judges, reclaiming his world heavyweight belts.