Cairo, March 21, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) – A visit by the Egyptian Olympic football team to Palestine has been postponed, reported the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper last week. The team were due to travel to the occupied West Bank next Sunday to play a friendly against the Palestinian national team at the Faisal al-Husseini stadium in al-Ram, near Jerusalem.
The visit had been approved by the Egyptian FA but garnered condemnation within the country, centring around the possible need for the players to be issued with Israeli visas.”If our team go there with Israeli visas, it will be a clear endorsement of their occupation of Palestine,” says Ahmed Omar Hashem, head of the People’s Assembly religious affairs committee. Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but anti-Israel sentiment still runs high in the country. When renowned television presenter Amr Adib opened the matter for discussion during his talk show, the majority of viewers phoning in expressed opposition to the idea.
After the postponement the EFA chairman, Samir Zaher, declined to disclose the exact reasons for the decision: “We were hoping to show our solidarity with the Palestinian people but the current circumstances will not allow us to play that game this month.” The former Egypt defender and Under-21 head coach, Hany Ramzy, emphasised the quandary for football in the Middle East: “We are totally against normalising relations with Israel; we just wanted to support Palestine and its people.”