KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: A new spanner has been thrown into the works just when FIFA thought it might achieve a temporary truce over the Palestine/Israel issue ahead of Congress here.
The decision of Israeli authorities to bar a delegate of the official Palestinian delegation from travelling out of Gaza has angered the state’s football association.
Last year PFA president Jibril Rajoub threatened to ask congress to suspend Israel over the ongoing row about freedom of movement of sports personnel. FIFA president Sepp Blatter than launched a task force to come up with a liaison system but this had only limited success.
Blatter, along with representaties of the European and Asian federations – Israel being in UEFA, Palestine in the AFC – had hoped a memorandum of understanding could have been signed in Sao Paulo and presented as a breakthrough to congress.
All this is now back in balance after the Israeli security authorities refused to grant Mohammad Ammassi, the PFA deputy general secretary, a permit to leave Gaza.
The PFA have seen this 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.
Now the risk is that Blatter may be unable to effect a damage limitation exercise ahead of the relevant item on the agenda of congress which opens tomorrow.
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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