AMMAN: Palestinians from all walks of life celebrated the historic decision of the Saudi national team to play its first qualifying game for the 2022 World Cup against Palestine in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Al-Ram.
Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Federation, told Arab News that the visit of the Saudi team has a historic and significant meaning for Palestinians. “As the world’s Muslim leader, the historic decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia confirms Palestinian national identity in the eyes of the world’s Muslims and at the same time it sends a message to Israelis that Palestine and Jerusalem are red lines and that the establishment of a Palestinian state is necessary for regional peace. It also shows our Palestinian people that they are not alone.”
Rajoub confirmed press reports that President Abbas sent a letter to His Majesty King Salman inviting the Saudi team to Palestine to play on Palestinian soil and in front of a Palestinian crowd.
Susan Shalabi, vice president of the Palestinian Football Federation, said: “Israel agreed for the first time to a special arrangement in which the Saudis will only have to go through the Jordanian border posts for passport checks and will be taken by bus from the Jordanian side to Ramallah directly without stopping at any Israeli-controlled crossing point.”
Ibrahim Milhem, spokesman of the Palestinian government, said that with the decision to play in Palestine the Saudi team “has scored a golden goal” to be added to the goals that the Palestinian fedayeen team has scored throughout the world. “There are so many meanings to this huge political decision and it comes at a critical time when we are in bad need of this kind of support from our brothers who have shown the strong conviction and ties that appear in Surah Al-Isra about the connection between Al-Haram in Makkah and Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.”
Shalabi said that the qualifying game for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup will take place at 4 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the Faisal Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram, north of East Jerusalem. “All preparations are in motion and we see no obstacles at all to having a successful home game in accordance with FIFA regulations.”
Ahmad Muhisan, director general of the Football Federation in the south of Palestine, said that Palestinians are excited about the visit of the Saudi national team. “We send our congratulations and thanks to our Saudi brothers and we call on all Arab teams to follow suit in playing our regular home games in Palestine among our fans and on our national soil.”
Mohammad Odwan, a former director of Abbas’ media office and now a private consultant, said: “This is one of the happiest days in my life and this great Saudi decision is a perfect response to the many ignorant people who don’t believe that Saudi is a strong supporter of our rights.” Odwan said that Saudi Arabia has put a smile on Palestinian faces. “We are so proud of this event and that our brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia showed again to the world that they stand with us against the injustice we face daily. We highly support this decision by His Majesty King Salman and the people of Saudi Arabia and look forward to a great match on Oct. 15.”