maandag 4 juli 2011

World Cup - Palestine play first World Cup home qualifier

Palestine celebrated a moment of history as they played their first World Cup qualifying match on home soil.

The Palestinians drew 1-1 with Afghanistan in the match, which was played in front of 8,000 fans at the Faisal Husseini Stadium in Al Ram, just a few yards from the concrete Israeli security barrier that separates the occupied West Bank from Jerusalem.
With no official manner by which countries are officially recognised, membership of organisations such as FIFA is often surprisingly important for countries struggling to establish an independent presence on the world stage.
But while FIFA admitted Palestine back in 1998, the country had never been able to host a World Cup qualifier on home soil until Sunday's game, instead being forced to hold their 'home' matches in nearby Jordan or Kuwait.
And there is little doubt that the match marked a psychological milestone for local people.
"It sends a message to the outside world that we are here, that we exist," local fan Luai told the BBC.
"Palestinian blood, Palestinian flesh, the Palestinian national anthem on Palestinian territory. It's good. It makes me feel proud," added Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian football federation.
For much of the game it looked as if the Palestinians would celebrate the occasion with a victory thanks to Wadi Hossam's goal that put the hosts ahead after just 11 minutes, but Balal Arezou equalised in the 63rd minute for Afghanistan.
The result was still good enough for the Palestinians, however, who progressed to the next round of qualification thanks to their 2-0 away win against Afghanistan in the first leg last week.
Ironically, that earlier match had been played in Tajikistan due to the ongoing conflict that prevents games from being played in Kabul.

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