Iraq to face Palestine in first-ever West Bank football friendly

Iraq to face Palestine in first-ever West Bank football friendly
Iraq's national team will travel to the West Bank on Thursday ahead of a friendly game with the Palestinian national squad in Ramallah.
2 min read
31 July, 2018
Iraq and Palestine faced off in another friendly in May [AFP]

Iraq's national football team is set to make its first-ever visit to the West Bank on Thursday, where it will face the Palestinian national squad in an international friendly, an official said on Monday.

Iraq's squad, like those of several other Arab states, had previously refused to visit the Palestinian territories due to Israel's occupation and control over its borders.

The Persian Gulf state does not recognise Israel and had fought against it in the 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars. With no peace made between the two countries, they are still technically in a state of war against eachother.

"A Palestinian delegation will wait for the Iraqi team in Amman and escort it to Ramallah," Iraqi team official Basil Gorgis told AFP

The game, which will take place on Saturday in Ramallah, comes after years of Palestinian leaders urging Arab states to send sports and cultural delegations to show solidarity.

Meanwhile, pro-Palestine activists have also slammed football's world governing body, FIFA, for "tarnishing the beautiful game" by sanctioning matches in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian activists have called for a boycott of Israeli sports, similar to the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa.

While FIFA has yet to take action, global football stars have spoken in support of Palestinians.

They include France legend Eric Cantona who called for footballer Mahmoud Sarsak's freedom while he was on hunger strike in an Israeli prison.

Most recently, the Argentinian national team cancelled a match against Israel in Jerusalem during the height of the Great Return March protests.

During the protests, Israel responded with sniper fire and drone strikes, killing at least 145 Palestinians. No Israelis were killed.