Lahore, 10 Jan : Karachi’s football followers will get a chance to witness a FIFA-recognized international game at their own soil after a lapse of more than five years when the Palestine football team will face Pakistan in the second of four Test series at Peoples Sports Complex on 2 March 2011. Last time, Karachi hosted the international match on 1 March 2006 when Pakistan faced UAE in 14th Asian Cup Qualifiers.
It was 60th FIFA Congress 2010 in South Africa last year, during which Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, also AFC Executive Committee member, met with Palestinian Football Association (PFA)’s President Al Rajoub Jibril and they both agreed to give their National teams training in early 2011 with bilateral series for coming AFC Challenge Cup, World Cup and Olympics Qualifiers and SAFF/WAFF Championship.“ Palestine used to play WAFF Championship, an international tournament for selected West Asian countries and territories. Palestine received the inaugural FIFA Development Award in recognition of the achievement and It would be an historic visit despite all the relations between two nations over the years.” said Faisal who is also FIFA and World Disciplinary Committee member and Chairman AFC Disciplinary Committee..
The Palestine team, under Goal keeper of Ramzi Saleh (Al-Merreikh FC), will tour Pakistan for the first time in their history in the last week of February to play two matches against the hosts. Palestine will play two matches against Pakistan on 27 February at Lahore and on 2 March at Karachi.
Pakistan will make return visit in bilateral home and away test series for two matches in April-May. The Pakistani booters will also get the privelege of visiting Al Aqsa Mosque, Baitul-Muqaddas, Meanwhile, football lovers has termed Palestine’s visit as a landmark in the history of Pakistan football. On June 8, 1998, Palestine became a full member of FIFA at the 51st FIFA Ordinary Congress – the day when Sepp Blatter took over top seat of FIFA from Joao Havelange ( 7th President of FIFA from 1974 to 1998). Their first five international matches from 1934 to 1940 are all recognised by FIFA; Israeli Football Association also recognise these matches as each of their own national side’s full internationals.
The 27th Feb Lahore clash will be third between the two teams in soccer history. Palestine were 3-0 winners on 18 February 2006 when Pakistan was in Manama, Bahrain for 14th Asia Cup QR preparation under former coach Salman Sharida (Bahrain), now the coach of his own country in ongoing 15th Asian Cup that opened at Doha on 7 January 2011 with Qatar-Uzbekistan tie at the magnificent Khalifa Stadium. Paletine, led by Israeli-Arab coach Azmi Nasser, struck through Fahed Attal (2) and Fahdi Salim at Bahrain’s National Stadium. But Azmi’s life was sadly cut short after suffering a heart-attack a year later. Ibrahim Munasarah and Mohammed Al-Jeish were scorers when both the teams entered the Doha field on 2 April 2000 for the first-ever tie between the two in 12th Asian Cup QR, with Palestine winning 2-0 against Pakistan, coached by John Henry Layton and David Burns.
Played by millions of people in every corner of the world, football is truly a global sport. As many as 208 member associations come under the aegis of FIFA, including Palestine. The President of their FA and head of the National Olympic Committee, Jibril Al Rajoub, came to Zurich on 21 September 2010 to meet FIFA President Blatter and discuss the development of football in the country.
Three years have passed since the inauguration of the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in Al-Ram near Ramallah. Development money provided by FIFA helped towards the costs of the new Stadium which is the home stadium of the Palestine team, which was officially opened in the presence of Blatter on 26 October 2008. The stadium, seats 12,500, saw Palestine played Jordan 1-1 in their first-ever home international in 10 years of FIFA membership. Prior to that date, the Palestine FA did not have a stadium fit to host internationals, meaning that the national team had to play its ‘home’ matches in Jordan and Qatar.
“Palestine footballers need to have the opportunity to play football. It can build bridges, bring young people in the region together and give them hope. The PFA needs to have the chance to work at providing a better future.” summed up Faisal.