Saudi football team to play first game in Palestine

Saudi football team to play first game in Palestine
It is an important political symbol for the kingdom which has always hosted matches with Palestinians in third countries, but it is also important for the status of Palestinians.
2 min read
04 October, 2019
Saudi Arabia usually plays against Palestine in a third host country [Getty]

The Saudi Arabian national football team will play Palestine on their home turf, the occupied Palestinian territories, for the first time, the kingdom’s sport authority said on Friday. 

The historic game is due to take place on October 15 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, reported AFP

"At the request of the brothers in the Palestinian federation, the Saudi Football Federation has agreed to play the team's first match in the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup against Palestine... on October 15... in Ramallah," the Saudi Sports Authority said on Twitter.

The move is significant given that the kingdom has always hosted matches with Palestinians in third countries.

Due to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Saudi Arabia’s recognition of the occupied territories - even if for a football match - gives significant weight to their legal right of existence within the regional and international framework. 

The Saudi Sports Authority underlined that there aim was to not deprive Palestinians "the chance to play at home and among its fans like other countries," it added.

The Palestinian ‘home’ does not exist in the eyes of Israel and its allies’, so the acknowledgement of its survival is within itself a political stance. 

Saudi Arabia has continuously supported Palestine, refusing to recognise Israel

Other Arab teams have historically refused to play in Palestine, as they are required to apply for entry permits given by Israel, which would have breached the decades-long boycott of the Jewish state.

Iraq, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have broken the boycott, whilst Egypt and Lebanon still refuse, even if this means not being able to play in Palestinian stadiums. 

But the head of the Palestinian football association Jibril Rajoub said the match against Saudi Arabia will not breach the boycott, as the game is to be played at the Al-Ram Stadium. 

Some 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.