FIFA chief hosts Israeli-Palestinian soccer talks with clear goals in mind
Head of worldwide soccer body, Sepp Blatter, suggests Israel and Palestine should play a game together one day.
ZURICH — FIFA President Sepp Blatter hopes to have a solution by year’s end to the problem of Israeli security restrictions affecting Palestinian football, after holding talks with the two sides on Tuesday.
After hosting the leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian football associations, Blatter said they agreed to send delegates to a follow-up meeting later in September.
"As I am an optimist, at the end of the year we will have found a solution and will present the solution to the political authorities," said Blatter. "Security means also that there shall be solutions that people can come in and go out, because Palestine has the right to play in FIFA competitions or Asian competitions," Blatter added.
FIFA recognizes Palestine as a national team, but Israel's denial of travel visas to players and officials forced the side to forfeit its place in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. The issue flared again in August when teams from Iraq, Jordan and the UAE struggled to arrive for a Palestinian-hosted youth tournament.
That impasse prompted Palestinian federation president Jibril Rajoub to demand that FIFA suspend Israel from international football.
Rajoub and Israeli football president Avi Luzon spoke together for the first time Tuesday, Blatter said, acknowledging that the session at FIFA headquarters had a "lively" start.
"Both of the presidents wanted to express a little bit what they had on their heart," Blatter said. "I cannot say any more, but at the end it was trust, confidence and football."
Neither Luzon nor Rajoub met with reporters, leaving Blatter to represent the FIFA task force created for the issue.
Blatter said a report should be submitted to the FIFA executive committee on October 3-4 in Zurich.
"We said football is connecting people, and the solution would be one day that they play football together," Blatter said.