The Palestinian national football team is to play an international qualifier match on its home turf for the first time ever, Palestinian officials said today.
"This game will be the first international game held on Palestinian land as one of the preliminary qualifying matches for the London Olympics in 2012," said deputy information minister Al-Mutawakil Taha.
The match, against Thailand in the Olympic football Asian group, is scheduled for 9 March. "We hope that this game is the first of many so that we can have a home stadium for the meaning it holds in sports, culture and politics," Taha added at a press conference to announce the match.
The Palestinian national team has played friendly matches against international teams at the Palestinian stadium in the West Bank town of Ar-Ram. But official qualifier matches have always been hosted outside the Palestinian territories, usually in Jordan or Kuwait, because of the precarious security situation and the lack of adequate infrastructure at home.
"This game will be a historic occasion that will determine if we deserve the home stadium or not," said Abdul Majeed Hijeh, secretary-general of the Palestinian Football Association.
Palestine has been affiliated to FIFA since 1998, and the federation financed the construction of the Palestinian stadium in Ar-Ram, which is named after Faisal Husseini, an east Jerusalem Palestinian leader who died in 2001.