FIFA President Sepp Blatter is trying to broker a deal between the Palestinian and Israel football associations ahead of this week’s FIFA World Congress at which the Palestinians have called for a vote to suspend Israel.
Blatter met with both associations, as well as Israeli and Palestinian political leaders, during a visit to the region in hopes of finding a way to ease the tension. FIFA is the international soccer governing body.
“Football has the power to connect people,” Blatter said at a press conference last week in Jerusalem. “Football has the power to construct bridges. I am coming here and going to your neighbors … to try to construct bridges and to try and make sure that football is not dividing, but football is uniting.”
Instead of a vote, Blatter suggests a game between the two national teams, offering Zurich, Switzerland, as a possible location.
The Palestinian group objects to Israeli teams playing in the West Bank. They also say Israel restricts movements of Palestinian players between the West Bank and Gaza as well as for international matches.
“They keep bullying here and there, and I think they have no right to keep being the bully of the neighborhood,” Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub said of Israel. “If the Israelis are using the issue of security, I can say that their security concern is mine. I am ready to fix parameters for security concerns, but security should not be used … as a tool in order to keep this racist, apartheid policies.”
He declared the situation in the West Bank far worse than apartheid that existed in South Africa because right-wingers and extremists in Israel want to “delete Palestine.” In the 1960s, FIFA suspended South Africa for decades after it failed to comply with the association’s nondiscrimination policies. The nation was also expelled from FIFA a month after the Soweto Youth Uprising of 1976.
– Read more: Israel Cries Foul over FIFA Suspension Talk – CNN