In 2015, the United Arab Emirates broke the status quo by accepting an invitation to play at the Palestinian team’s ‘home’ stadium, located just outside of Jerusalem.
By World Israel News Staff
Saudi Arabia’s national soccer team arrived in Ramallah on Sunday in preparation for its World Cup qualifier soccer match with the Palestinian team on Tuesday, according to multiple media reports.
The Saudi team attended a state dinner with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“We welcome the Saudi team here to play for the first time on our own soil,” Abbas told the team. “We are proud of this visit, and we feel it embodies the historical relationship between Saudi Arabia and Palestine.”
On Monday, the team also visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque that is located in the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Temple Mount is considered the holiest shrine for Jews and third holiest location for Muslims. Its status has been a very sensitive point of contention between Arabs and Jews, and has been the scene of much violence.
“This is the most beautiful day in my life,” said Yasser Al-Mishal, the president of the Saudi Football Federation.
“Really, it’s hard to express my feelings. I thank God that I could visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray inside the mosque,” he added.
The Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa reported that while visiting the mosque, local religious officials told the team members about the “Israeli police harassment of the worshipers” and the “state-sponsored attempts by Jewish fanatics to take it over.”
Until 2015, the Palestinian team played most of its “home” games in Jordan, Egypt, and other third-party fields. This was because virtually every Arab soccer club refused to ask Israel, the authority of which they denied, for the travel permits needed to enter Judea and Samaria, according to the Washington Post.
In 2015, the United Arab Emirates broke the status quo by accepting an invitation to play at the Palestinian team’s home stadium, the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in the village of Al-Ram, just outside Jerusalem, the report said.
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, granted the Palestinian Football Federation full affiliation in 1998.
The Saudi-Palestinian match was taking place Tuesday afternoon at Husseini Stadium.