Saudi Arabia held to goalless draw by Palestine in landmark West Bank World Cup qualifier

Saudi Arabia were held to a goalless draw by Palestine in Al-Ram on Tuesday in their historic 2022 World Cup qualifying clash in the West Bank. (Saudi Football Federation/AFC)
Updated 15 October 2019

Saudi Arabia held to goalless draw by Palestine in landmark West Bank World Cup qualifier

  • Game was first time Green Falcons had played in occupied territory
  • 15,000 football fans packed into Faisal Husseini Stadium

AMMAN: A long-awaited World Cup and Asia Cup qualifier between Saudi Arabia and Palestine ended in a 0-0 draw, keeping qualifying hopes alive for both teams.

The 72nd-ranked Saudi team keeps their second place in Group D with five points, while the 99th-ranked Palestinians are in third place with four points. Uzbekistan lead the group with six points.

Susan Shalabi, who is vice president of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), said both teams were winners.

“We are grateful to our Saudi brothers for respecting our desire to play our home game at home, in Palestine, and we hope we were able to provide them with all they needed to be comfortable and game-ready,” she told Arab News.

“The biggest problem facing the PFA was the huge crowds wanting to watch the game,” she added.

“Palestinians from all walks of life, including children, were clamoring to attend this epic game and we did our best to accommodate as many as possible despite the fact that the stadium is not meant for such large crowds.”

A record crowd of 15,000 attended the match at Faisal Husseini Stadium, which is in a town north of Jerusalem.

“We had to accommodate so many people, many who wanted to watch the game even from the windows of the dressing rooms and the administrative offices,” she said.

Saudi and Palestinian flags were waved from the stands as both sides battled it out for 90 minutes without scoring despite many opportunities.

The PFA’s president, Jibril Rajoub, said the game was a “national carnival” and that he was happy it went as planned.

“The draw reflected the hard work of both teams who had a strong performance on the field. I am happy that our Saudi brothers came and left with their heads up high,” he told Arab News.

But for Qadri Hassan, who is head of the Jordanian Sports Writers Association, the real winner was the Palestinian cause.

“The Saudis showed patriotism by agreeing to respect Palestine’s desire to have their home game played at home, and were rewarded by an unprecedented wave of public support that went beyond Palestine to the entire Arab world,” he told Arab News. “After this visit, no team will refuse to play a Palestinian home game in Palestine.”

The veteran sportswriter and commentator said the time had come for FIFA and the Arab world to join forces in helping to build a much bigger stadium.

“Faisal Husseini Stadium is not built for such major games. Palestine needs an Olympic stadium with natural grass that can seat tens of thousands of spectators.”

Koreas in goalless draw North and South Korea played out a surreal 0-0 draw in front of an empty stadium and with no TV coverage as Australia smashed seven past Taiwan in Asian World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

On a busy night of qualifiers for Qatar 2022, Marcello Lippi’s China were also frustrated as they were held to a scoreless draw away to the Philippines.

But there was more action elsewhere as Adam Taggart, Jackson Irvine and Harry Souttar scored two apiece in Australia’s 7-1 rout of Taiwan. In other matches,  Japan’s Takumi Minamino scored twice and Takuma Asano got the other as the Samurai Blue defeated Tajikistan 3-0 in Dushanbe.

Iraq’s 4-0 thrashing of Cambodia was highlighted by Amjad Attwan’s belter which flew 25 yards and into the top corner past goalkeeper Keo Soksela.

Southeast Asian champions Vietnam humbled Indonesia 3-1 away and Uzbekistan beat Singapore by the same scoreline, thanks to Eldor Shomurodov’s second half double. And Ekanit Panya’s far-post finish secured a 2-1 win for Thailand over the UAE as they kept pace with Vietnam at the top of Group G.

Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over virus: organizers

Updated 17 min 46 sec ago

Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over virus: organizers

  • Games pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak
TOKYO: Tokyo will scrap events marking a year to go until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games, organizers said Friday, citing the “current economic situation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Games have been pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the disease outbreak, though it remains unclear whether even that delay will be sufficient.
Last year, the city and organizers held a series of events to mark the one-year countdown, including unveiling the newly designed medals.
But given the global crisis, organizers ruled out a similar celebration.
“In view of the current economic situation, Tokyo 2020 will not be holding any events to mark the new one year to go milestone for the Games,” the organizers said.
“But we will consider what we can do to show our solidarity with the people.”
The confirmation came after reports in the Japanese media that organizers would scrap the event, fearing it was inappropriate given the global pandemic and the ongoing risk of infection inside Japan.
Kyodo News agency reported that posters and messages of encouragement to athletes might be put up and displayed online instead, adding that the organizing committee felt a more “moderate tone” was appropriate.
A nationwide state of emergency over the virus has been lifted in Japan, but a recent rise in cases in Tokyo has led to fears of a second wave.
The latest reports come after Tokyo’s governor confirmed the city and organizers are looking at ways to scale back next year’s Games.
Japanese media said streamlining plans could involve cutting the number of spectators and reducing participation in the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted an unnamed source as saying that everyone including athletes, officials and spectators would be required to take a test for the virus.
Tokyo 2020 declined to comment on those reports, saying discussions about coronavirus countermeasures would be held “from this autumn onwards.”
Organizers and Tokyo officials face the twin headaches of ensuring the postponed Games can be held safely, given the pandemic, and keeping additional costs to a minimum.
But with the pandemic continuing to rage in much of the world, it remains unclear whether the Games can be held next year.
On Friday, a member of the organizing committee’s executive board said a decision on whether the Games could be held or not would need to be taken in spring.
“I think we need to decide around March next year,” Toshiaki Endo, a former Olympic minister told reporters, denying speculation that the IOC intends to make a decision in October.
IOC chief Thomas Bach said last month that 2021 was the “last option” for holding the Tokyo Games, stressing that postponement cannot go on forever.
He declined to say whether a vaccine was a prerequisite for going ahead with the Olympics, but was lukewarm on the idea of holding them behind closed doors.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it would be “difficult” to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
And Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said the Olympics would have to be canceled if the disease isn’t under control by next year.