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.


Vardy hits double in Leicester’s 8th straight victory

Updated 09 December 2019

Vardy hits double in Leicester’s 8th straight victory

  • Leicester takes the second-place team within eight points of Liverpool

BIRMINGHAM: Jamie Vardy scored for an eighth straight game for Premier League high-flyer Leicester on Sunday with a double in a 4-1 dismantling of Aston Villa.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Evans also scored to help Leicester set a new club record of eight consecutive top-flight wins and take the second-place team within eight points of Liverpool.

Jack Grealish did make it 2-1 just before the break but the Foxes were rarely in danger.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are 14 points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United in the pursuit of Champions League qualification.

“We are up there, we are challenging and playing well,” Evans told broadcaster Sky Sports. “Probably now, today, I think people are starting to talk more about that.

“Coming away from Villa with a really good performance, I think that’s the best Villa team we have played against for quite a while and we had to grind it out and it shows we are capable of getting good results.”

By contrast, Villa is only out of the relegation zone on goal difference after slipping to a fifth defeat in seven games.

Villa was wide open and Leicester should have taken the lead after 10 minutes.

Caglar Soyuncu knocked James Maddison’s deep free-kick back for Evans, who could only shoot straight at goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Immediately, Villa broke to spurn their own golden chance when Matt Targett crossed for Anwar El Ghazi to hit the bar from six yards. With the chance went Villa’s early hopes and they swiftly lost any grip of the game when Vardy continued his scoring streak in the 20th minute.

Wesley lost the ball and the lively Iheanacho slipped the striker in to race clear and round Heaton. Vardy miscued his kick when preparing to shoot but recovered to tap in, despite Konsa’s efforts on the line.

Vardy is now just three games away from equalling his own Premier League record of scoring in 11 consecutive games.

Villa’s problems were partly of their own making with center back Tyrone Mings unable to cover having already suffered a hamstring injury and the defender was immediately replaced by Bjorn Engels.

Villa could not handle Vardy’s pace and Iheanacho’s movement.

There was a touch of fortune but Leicester deserved to double its lead in the 41st when Maddison crossed and Iheanacho diverted in at the near post.

The Foxes were cruising but Grealish pulled a goal back in first-half injury time when he curled in from 16 yards after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

Leicester, though, wasted no time in restoring their two-goal lead four minutes after the break.