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.”

First desert polo tournament kicks off in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla as part of Winter at Tantora

Updated 17 January 2020

First desert polo tournament kicks off in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla as part of Winter at Tantora

ALULA, Saudi Arabia: The first ever AlUla desert polo championship launched on Thursday with the two-day tournament kicking off during the second season of the Winter at Tantora Festival.
The event is organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and in cooperation with the Saudi Polo Federation.
A group of the most prominent international polo players will be competing in the tournament including the founder of the La Dolfina Polo Team, 10-goal handicapped, Adolfo Cambiaso. Other notable players include David Stirling, Pablo Mac Donough, and Argentinian Nacho Figueras.
For his part, Chief Executive Officer at RCU, Amr Al-Madani, said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seeks to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of AlUla while promoting its unique landscape. A city that is rich with anthropological findings, historical anecdotes, and a depth of civilization.”
He added: “Hosting the Desert Polo Tournament during the Winter at Tantora Festival provides a global platform which will help define the value of a city rooted in the core of history. It is also a tribute to the regions great equestrian tradition and a big contribution toward achieving the goals of Vision 2030.”

Amr Hussein Zidan, the President of the Saudi Polo Federation, also commented: “AlUla Desert Polo is not only a new concept; it is also the first official tournament organized by the Saudi Polo Federation. The organization was established in July 2018 as a means to develop the sport in the Kingdom, implement international best practices and help enthusiasts compete at elite levels of the competition.”
AlUla is a perfect setting to launch the Desert Polo Tournament as it is characterized by its unique location and its great historical and cultural significance to the Kingdom and the world. The exceptional site of the city and its charming nature provides links to ancient civilizations and paints an accurate picture of past life, memories, and the stories of the long-gone dwellers of the old city.

The Desert Polo Tournament is one of the major events taking place during the Winter at Tantora Festival. Over the course of 12 weeks, the festival will present a variety of activities that merge eastern and western culture embodying AlUla’s heritage as a meeting point for difference civilizations from around the world throughout history.
Winter at Tantora Festival offers a wide range of diverse experiences that cater to all tastes from all walks of life. The festival will take place every weekend starting 19th December 2019, and running until the 7th of March 2020. Guests this year will also have the unique opportunity to visit the historical heritage sites before they close to the public until October 2020. They will also be able to attend musical and artistic performances by some of the most respected artists in the Arab, and international, world.
The AlUla Desert Polo Championship is sponsored by Amaala, Bentley and Richard Mille.
For more information, and to book your spot during the various festival activities, please visit the festival website here.