‘Golden goal’: Palestinians celebrate Saudi decision to play world cup game in Palestine

The Saudi national team will play its first qualifying game for the 2022 World Cup against Palestine in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Al-Ram. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 October 2019

‘Golden goal’: Palestinians celebrate Saudi decision to play world cup game in Palestine

  • 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,” he said

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.”


Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”