Israel Caves to Pressure, Allows Arab Soccer Players to Enter PA
Israel has reportedly bowed to pressure from UEFA to allow Arab youth football teams into areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, having initially denied them entry, a Jordanian official told AFP on Friday.
FIFA confirmed it had intervened and asked Israel to allow the players entry.
Israel's refusal to grant entry to players and coaching staff delayed the West Asia Football Federation's (WAFF) Under-17's Championship, which was to begin on Thursday, pitting the PA team against Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
"WAFF President (Jordan's) Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein and FIFA's vice-president intervened with UEFA to settle this issue," WAFF secretary-general Fadi Zureiqat told AFP.
"Israel capitulated (to the pressure) and allowed entry permits for all the teams and officials," he added.
"The delegations have prepared to set off for the West Bank via the King Hussein crossing (with Jordan). WAFF will hold a meeting this evening to decide the official program, following the delay."
Separately, FIFA told AFP that it had interceded as soon as it received a letter from the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) on August 12.
The governing body of world football said it had immediately asked the Israel Football Association (IFA) to use its "good offices" in the dispute.
PFA chief Jibril Rajoub said Israel had denied representatives of WAFF, which includes 12 Arab national football associations, permits to enter PA-controlled areas.
Three managers of the Jordanian football union, two UAE representatives and 13 managers and players from Iraq were refused entry, he said.
FIFA said that it had given the IFA a list of 29 players and officials who had not received the authorization to enter, and that the IFA subsequently informed it that only six had been barred.
Rajoub underlined that WAFF had contacted FIFA and the European football federation UEFA, to which Israel belongs, in an effort to "put pressure on Israel to issue the necessary permits" for the tournament to go ahead.
The PFA's director-general told AFP, "The Israeli civil administration informed me they have issued all the permits, and the teams can begin crossing into the West Bank from today."
The tournament would now start Sunday, he added.
WAFF's Zureiqat, meanwhile, said the Arab federation had sent the PFA the participating players' and managers' details six weeks ahead of the tournament so they could get the permits from Israel on time.
It is the first time an Iraqi team will travel to PA-controlled areas, where several Arab countries refuse to play, opposing the fact that Israel decides whether or not they can enter.
The PFA had on Thursday urged FIFA to expel Israel from the international federation due to its stance on the tournament entry permits.
"We ask (FIFA) for a red card, because the yellow card has been raised now for a long time," Rajoub told reporters in Ramallah.
FIFA did not react directly to that call on Friday but underlined that during a trip last month to the region, its president Sepp Blatter had secured an agreement to create a task force involving the PFA, IFA, European governing body UEFA and its Asian counterpart the AFC.
The task force is set to meet next month at FIFA's headquarters in the Swiss city of Zurich, it said, according to AFP.
"FIFA will pursue its mission to contribute to the overall development of football in the Middle East, in accordance with the FIFA Statutes," it said.
(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.)