CAIRO, March 3, 2010 (Pal Telegraph,BM) – Egypt announced that it will travel to the occupied West Bank on March 28 to play a friendly match against the Palestinian national football team. The game will feature Egypt’s Olympic team and will be played at Faisal al-Husseini stadium in al-Ram, a town near Jerusalem as part of the Palestinian Land Day celebrations.
According to reports in local Egyptian newspapers, Muslim members of the Egyptian delegation will pray at al-Aqsa mosque, while the team’s coach Hani Ramzy and other Christians part of the squad will pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in what is largely seen as an unprecedented move by the Egyptian government.
It comes only weeks after Egypt refused to play the Israeli national team in a friendly match, saying it would signal cultural normalization, an idea that is largely seen in Egypt as counter to the public sentiments toward the Jewish state.
The Egyptian Football Federation said that it is hoping the Palestinian Authority or the Israeli Embassy in Cairo will help with permission, including visas, in order to allow the Egyptian team safe passage into the West Bank via Jordan. The federation added that this will ensure the delegation does not have their passports stamped by the Israeli government upon entering the West Bank.
Not everyone is praising the decision to play the friendly, however, as one Muslim Brotherhood member of Parliament Ibrahim Abu Awf demanded Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif intervene and suspend the match. He said that the journey to Jerusalem would be “ill-advised” and that the two nations should instead play the match in Gaza.