Umaid Wasim – DAWN
SAO PAULO: Palestine would be coming to Pakistan for a series of friendly matches on the FIFA friendly dates in October, the head of the Palestine Football Association (PFA) Jibril Rajoub told Dawn in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Both the PFA and the Pakistan Football Association (PFF) enjoy close ties with Pakistan’s national team recently travelling to Palestine to feature in the Al-Nakba Cup.
“I would like to appreciate that the PFF sent their team to Palestine for the Al-Nakba Cup despite the problems created by Israel,” Rajoub said on the sidelines of the AFC Extraordinary Congress.
“And now, we would like to return the favour by coming to Pakistan.”
During the Al-Nakba Cup, Pakistan’s Bahraini head-coach Mohammad Al Shamlan was stopped by the Israeli authorities from entering into Palestine.
The team, however, participated in the event.
“We really appreciate that the Pakistan team took part in the event despite their coach not being there,” said Rajoub.
“Pakistan had a special place in the heart of [late Palestinian leader] Yasser Arafat and we enjoy brotherly relations with Pakistan.”
Rajoub added that the security concerns in Pakistan wouldn’t bother him or his team.
“Coming to Pakistan is like coming home,” he said. “The security circumstances wouldn’t stop me or the team.We are ready to come to Pakistan.”
Palestine last came to Pakistan in 2011 with the team playing matches in both Lahore and Karachi.
Rajoub, meanwhile, also pledged to take Israel to FIFA authorities over its interference in Palestinian sport.
He is leading a campaign named ‘Red Card Israeli Racism’ at the FIFA Congress in which Rajoub is appealing for sanctions against Israel stopping Palestinian players and officials from travelling through the Gaza Strip.
FIFA will decide at its annual congress on Tuesday and Wednesday on how to resolve the matter.
“FIFA will meet both associations ahead of the upcoming FIFA congress to discuss various issues,” the governing body said in a statement.
Apart from the issue of the 2022 World Cup bid, the Israel-Palestine issue is the other major thing on the agenda for the congress which ends a day before the World Cup kicks off in Sao Paulo.
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2014