Palestine to play 1st match in home stadium
Palestine will play its first international soccer game at home, an Oct. 26 exhibition against Jordan in Gaza City.
For 10 years the team has been playing “home” games in Jordan and Qatar. But its stadium has now been upgraded to meet standards set by soccer’s governing body.
The renovated Ram Stadium will be opened by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. He also will inaugurate a second grass soccer field in Palestinian territory, at Majed Al-Asaad in El Bireh.
“It is very important to FIFA that countries are able to play their home matches in their own stadium,” FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola said Friday.
Palestine is rated 180th of 207 nations in the FIFA rankings, peaking at No. 115 in April 2006.
It has played home games in the last three World Cup qualifying competitions in Doha, Qatar, and used a training camp at Ismailia in Egypt.
Travel for away games also has been complicated. Palestine failed to arrive for a recent World Cup qualifier in Singapore because of restrictions imposed by Israel—18 players and officials living in the Gaza Strip were denied travel permits. Israel had declared Gaza “hostile territory” and allowed only humanitarian hardship cases to leave.
FIFA denied a request from the Palestinian federation to reschedule and declared the game a forfeit and 3-0 win for Singapore, eliminating Palestine 7-0 on total goals.