Saudi football team to play Palestinian team in Ramallah as part of Asian World Cup qualifiers

The Saudi national football team. (SPA file photo)
Updated 04 October 2019

Saudi football team to play Palestinian team in Ramallah as part of Asian World Cup qualifiers

  • On Thursday, the Rajah Casablanca became the first Moroccan football team played in the West Bank
  • The Palestinian Football Federation asked Saudi Arabia to let its team play in occupied Palestinian territories

RIYADH:  The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) on Friday said the Saudi national team will play against the Palestinian team on October 15 at the Martyr Faisal Housseini Stadium in Ramallah, Palestine, as part of the Asian World Cup qualifiers, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

SPA quoted Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al Faisal, chairman of the Saudi General Sport Authority (GSA), as saying the decision was in response to the request of the Palestinian Football Federation of its desire to host the game.

The Palestinian federation wanted “to ensure that the Palestinian team is not deprived of playing the game at home among its fans like in other countries, and as part of abiding by the agenda of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and ensure equal opportunity for both team,” said the report.

The Saudi game in the West Bank would mark a change in policy for the Gulf state, which has previously played matches against Palestine in third countries.

The Palestinian football association earlier announced the forthcoming visit of the Saudi national team on Thursday as the first Moroccan football team played in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But 28 fans of the Raja Casablanca club were denied entry to the occupied West Bank by “Israeli occupation forces,” Morocco’s MAP news agency said, quoting the country’s embassy in Jordan.

READ MORE: Raja Casablanca first Morocco football team to play in Palestinian territories

Arab clubs and national teams have historically refused to play in the West Bank, where the Palestinian national team plays, as it required them to apply for Israeli entry permits.

Thursday evening’s match kicked off at 1600 GMT, with Raja Casablanca eventually beating Palestinian team Hilal Al-Quds 2-0 in the Arab Champions Cup.

The Moroccan giants had won the first leg 1-0 at home, with the team’s supporters waving Palestinian flags and chanting songs supportive of the cause.


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”