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FIFA chief calls Israel to "help" Palestinian football players

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Post time: 2015-05-22 08:38:56
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JERUSALEM, May 19 (Xinhua) -- World football governing body FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Tuesday urged Israel to "help football in Palestine," amid a Palestinian bid to expel Israel from international football.

Blatter arrived in the region to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a last-minute effort to avert a vote at FIFA's Congress on May 29 in Zurich to bar Israel from international football matches. The vote was proposed by the Palestine Football Association (PFA), which seeks to sanction Israel for restrictions it put on Palestinian athletes.

"I'm here on a mission of peace between the (Israeli and Palestinian) football associations," Blatter told a press conference in Jerusalem.

Blatter opposes suspending the Israeli football association because it has not violated any of FIFA's regulations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Blatter for " opposing politicizing of sport," according to a statement issued by his office after a meeting between the two in Jerusalem.

Blatter is scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday.

He said he carries with him a message from Netanyahu to Abbas but could not disclose more details before their meeting tomorrow. "I'm very hopeful" he noted, "because we have put a little bit of pressure on both sides."

He also revealed that Netanyahu agreed to a "peace match" between Israel's and Palestine's national teams, although no date has been set yet.

PFA accuses Israel of restricting access of Palestinian football players from Gaza and the West Bank.

PFA chief Jibril Rajoub told the Palestinian news agency WAFA that "while Israel continues to participate in FIFA matches internationally with impunity, Palestinian football players have been shot and arrested, our football association raided by Israeli army forces, our clubs more often than not forbidden from bringing players, coaches or even materials from abroad, just as the restriction of movement imposed on our players and technical staff, within, from and to Palestine have turned the game into a real act of resistance."

In order to win the vote, the Palestinians need to garner at least 50 percent plus one of the votes of FIFA's 209 member associations. Israel, however, argues the threshold should be put on 75 percent of the votes.


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