ZURICH: Palestine will not, after all, be staging their World Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and Malaysia on the West Bank writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
After months of administrative and political confusion a sub-committee of world federation FIFA’s organising committee has ruled that the security deterioration has meant the ties must be played on neutral territory.
The final decision was taken today by an emergency bureau, composed of chairman Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahima Al Khalifa (Bahrain), deputy chairman Juan Ángel Napout (Paraguay) and Michel D’Hooghe (Belgium) – all members of the FIFA executive committee.
Napout, head of the South American confederation, chaired a previous bureau meeting which considered Palestine a secure venue.
However, a meeting in Ramallah yesterday between FIFA’s security officer and local authorities, was followed by a statement from the Palestinian government that it could no longer guarantee safety and security around the matches in question.
The Saudi Arabia match, originally scheduled for tomorrow, will now be played on Sunday with the Malaysia match will still be played, as planned, on Wednesday next week.
A statement added: “FIFA has asked the Palestinian Football Association to provide details on the neutral ground in Asia that will host both matches.”
The Palestine v Saudi Arabia match, in particular, had been the subject of a long wrangle over the Saudis’ initial reluctance to play in the West Bank.
See previous: http://tinyurl.com/pyguymq