KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: Palestine football has appealed for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to act decisively against Israel in the saga over freedom of access for sports personnel.
Without that the Palestine Football Association could upset Blatter’s careful choreography for this week’s imminent FIFA Congress.
Blatter is ever more in need of what he has described as a “show of unity” after the latest storm over corruption allegations in FIFA’s 2018/2022 World Cup bid process.
Last year Palestine Football Association president Jibril Rajoub told the world federation’s congress in Mauritius that, unless an easing of security restrictions could be secured, he would return this year and demand Israel’s suspension.
FIFA’s 2014 Congress opens here in Sao Paulo tomorrow/Tuesday with the Middle East issue on the agenda for Wednesday.
Blatter had hoped that his task force on the issue would achieve enough progress for the two football associations to sign a memorandum of understanding.
However this was cast into doubt after the Israeli security authorities refused to grant a permit for the PFA’s deputy general secretary, Mohammad Ammassi, to leave his home in Gaza to fly to Brazil.
An angry Rajoub subsequently issued a direct appeal to Blatter for a solution.
Rajoub said: “We have a professional league. We have a women’s team and we have an academy to develop the game. The only challenge we are facing is the Israeli racist occupation and fascist strategy to delete Palestine.
“They are not even recognising the very exisence of the Palestine FA. We need your support, Mr President. Palestine needs you. Tomorrow and after tomorrow we need to act in order either to recognise the statutes of FIFA or to be sent to court.”
The PFA considered the bar on Amassi as a deliberate provocation while an Israeli source countered that Amassi had been chosen deliberately by the Palestinians since they knew he had been denied travel permits on previous occasions.
A PFA statement said: “The PFA regrets to inform FIFA and the world football community that, at the time when the situation of football in Palestine is to be discussed for the second time in FIFA Congress, the third officially registered delegate of the PFA has been denied a permit to travel by the Israeli occuptation authorities.
“Mr Mohammad Ammassi, the deputy general secretary of the PFA, was denied a permit to travel from the Southern Governorates (Gaza) to the Nothern Governorates which would have allowed him to travel via Jordan to Brazil.
“This is not the first time Mr Amassi has been denied a travel permit. He has been denied entry to the Northern Governorates on several occasions and allowed entry on very few others. Authorities have nothing against him which clearly makes this rejection a temperamental and arbitrary measure that does not help the efforts to find a solution to the sitation of Palestinian football.”
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