ZURICH: Palestine, after all, will host Saudi Arabia on the West Bank after one of Michel Platini’s last decisions on behalf of world federation FIFA before his ethics code suspension was overturned writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Last month a three-man bureau (appeals committee) headed by Platini, as then president of the FIFA 2018 World Cup organising committee, ruled that an Asian qualifier between the two should be played on neutral territory.
Platini’s fellow decision-makers were Sheikhs Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, president of the Asian confederation, and new FIFA exco member Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah (Kuwait).
The teams met for the first time on June 11 in Dammam, with the Saudis winning 3-2.
However the Saudi refused to play in Palestine claiming force majeure though on what grounds remain unknown. It is assumed they did not to want to feel beholden to the Israeli security forces for their team’s transport from Jordan to Ramallah.
The Palestine Football Association had offered to ferry the Saudi team and officials from Amman in a fleet of helicopters, as is standard practice with for Arab state politicians.
When the Saudis rejected the offer, Platini and the Sheikhs ruled the match should take place on neutral territory. The PFA protested to FIFA president Sepp Blatter – in the days before his own suspension – and he ordered a review of the decision, partly out of concern for his own efforts to improve relations between Palestinians and Israelis.
On Tuesday, with Blatter and Platini out of the way, a new ‘bureau’ was set up, chaired by CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout. Its first decision was that Palestine should play host as originally agreed.
A FIFA statement confirmed: “The newly-installed bureau unanimously decided that in view of the agreement made between the two teams last June, the match would be rescheduled to take place in Palestine on Thursday, November 5, 2015.”
It added: “The Palestinian Football Association has given full security guarantees for the rescheduled match and FIFA has agreed to appoint a security officer who will work hand in hand with the Palestine authorities to supervise the security plan and make sure that the match is played in very good conditions.”