Iraqi soccer team plans to play in Ramallah

Iraq's national soccer team planning to travel to Ramallah to face off against PA team. Permission from Israel is required.

Ben Ariel ,

Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration)

Iraq's national soccer team is planning to travel to Ramallah on Thursday where it will face off against the Palestinian Authority’s team, a team official said Monday, according to AFP.

Iraq fought in wars against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973 and has still technically yet to make peace with Israel. It remains unclear whether Iraq has requested Israel’s permission for its team to enter Ramallah and whether such permission was granted.

Most teams in Arab countries, many of which do not recognize Israel, refuse to visit the Palestinian Authority because Israel control's the borders to PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria and imposes a naval blockade on Gaza, in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hamas.

PA leaders have for years called on Arab countries to send sporting and cultural delegations to help ease their isolation.

The friendly match with Iraq will be held Saturday in Ramallah, according to AFP.

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

The PA team has been a FIFA member since 1998 and in May squared off against the Iraqi squad in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Israel in the past has prevented soccer players from Gaza to enter Judea and Samaria due to security concerns, angering the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) which filed a complaint with FIFA, the governing body of soccer.

The head of the PFA, Jibril Rajoub, has in the past attempted to force FIFA to ban six Israeli teams based in Judea and Samaria, claiming that their presence there is in breach of FIFA statutes, which forbids another member association playing on another territory without permission.

Last October, FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced his organization would not intervene in the issue and that it considers the matter closed.

Rajoub, despite being a member of Fatah which is often touted as a peace partner of Israel’s, is notorious for his anti-Israel actions.

He has in the past said that Jews deserved the genocide inflicted on them by the Nazis. Prior to that he declared that if the PA had a nuclear bomb, it would use it against Israel.

In another incident, Rajoub exploited his entry to Israel in order to visit the family of terrorist murderer Karim Younes, an Israeli Arab who, together with his cousin Maher Younes, kidnapped and murdered Israeli soldier Avraham Bromberg in 1980.

In February, Rajoub was filmed as he verbally confronted Border Police officers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, telling one of them to "shut up, go to hell."