FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter today (Sunday, 26 October) attended the first-ever international match played by Palestine in the Palestinian territories since the affiliation of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) to FIFA in 1998. The game, against Jordan, was played in front of an enthusiastic sell-out crowd and ended in a 1-1 draw.
The venue for this landmark encounter was the fully renovated Al-Husseini Stadium, which is located in the city of Al-Ram, near Ramallah. The FIFA President inaugurated the stadium together with H.E. Prime Minister Dr Salam Fayyad, Mohamed bin Hammam, AFC President and FIFA Executive Committee member, and Jibril Rajoub, PFA President.
FIFA considers it to be essential that all of its member associations can play their home games where they are based. With this in mind, world football's governing body undertook an initiative to help build the first stadium in the Palestinian territories that meets the requirements to stage an international game.
The refurbishment of the stadium was funded by FIFA as well as some additional donations from France, the King of Saudi Arabia, the Olympic Council of Asia and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The remaining costs are being met by the Palestinian FA. The stadium also houses the PFA's headquarters and technical centre, and more information about the stadium can be accessed by clicking the link to the right.
"Football is about much more than just kicking a ball. The aim of football is not only to put the ball in the net, but to touch the world and build a better future. As FIFA President, I'm very proud, impressed and honoured to be here to attend the first international game played by the Palestinian team in Palestine. This is a historic moment and a victory for football", stated the FIFA President.
Earlier in the day, Joseph S. Blatter laid a wreath at the mausoleum of the late President Yassir Arafat. He then had an audience with H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas, who awarded him and Mohamed bin Hammam the 'Wissam Al-Qods (Order Jerusalem)' distinction. Joseph S. Blatter also joined the Palestinian President in kicking off the Palestinian women's football league at a futsal tournament in Ramallah.
During the FIFA President's visit, two football turf pitches funded through FIFA's Goal programme - one located next to the Al-Husseini Stadium, the other one in El Bireh - were inaugurated.
Yesterday (Saturday, 25 October), the FIFA President was in Amman and laid the foundation stone of the third FIFA Goal project in Jordan, news of which can be accessed on the right-hand panel of this story. Tomorrow (Monday, 27 October), he will arrive in Israel, where he will take part in the inauguration of the Peres Peace House on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Peres Center for Peace. The next day, he will lay the foundation stone of another football turf pitch funded by the FIFA Goal programme.