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PA Official Says it's 'Too Soon' for Soccer Match with Israel

The head of the PA's soccer federation says it is "too soon" for a match against Israel, as proposed by Barcelona.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 2/22/2013, 10:30 PM

President Shimon Peres and FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell
President Shimon Peres and FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell
Flash 90

The head of the Palestinian Authority’s soccer federation said on Friday it was "too soon" for a match against Israel, as proposed by Barcelona, although he praised the idea.

"This idea would cause a quake in the region if it were to take place, but it is too soon and the ball is in the Israeli camp," said Jibril Rajoub, according to AFP.

"The conditions are not ready for this idea. Israel does not even recognize us as a sporting entity," he added.

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has suggested a soccer match between Israel and the PA with players from both sides of the conflict as a step towards Middle East peace.

Rosell, who met with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday, travelled to Ramallah the next day for talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"The idea is to help the two peoples to reach peace with a meeting in which Barcelona stars and players from the two sides would take part," Rosell told a joint press conference with Rajoub, according to AFP.

Several months ago Hamas reacted furiously after the Barcelona soccer team invited Gilad Shalit to attend a Barcelona-Real Madrid derby, demanding that FC Barcelona keep him away, and urging Muslim media not to broadcast the game if the Israeli attended.

"We call on all Muslim, Arab and Palestinian media not to broadcast this game if Shalit attends," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

"FC Barcelona's invitation to the criminal Shalit so they can pay homage to him is an offence to sentiments of the Palestinian people and to Arabs and Muslims, because Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was on a tank taking part in the killing of Palestinian civilians when he was captured (in 2006)," he said.

PA soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak later said he would attend the derby, but not in the same stand as Gilad Shalit. Sarsak had been imprisoned in an Israeli jail on terrorism charges and was freed and returned to his home in Gaza after observing a hunger strike of nearly three months.

In an act of protest against Shalit’s invitation to attend the derby, Gazans later held a “protest game” outside the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza.

Rajoub himself in the past supported an Arab boycott of the Adidas company, because of the sponsorship it gave to the Jerusalem Marathon.

Rajoub claimed that the boycott will send a clear message to all those who think that the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem can be supported. He added that Jerusalem would remain a Muslim and a Christian city.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)