Mohamed Bin Hammam
Mohamed Bin Hammam. Photo by Reuters
Text size

The man who is challenging to replace FIFA strongman Sepp Blatter as president of soccer's world governing body says that, if elected, he would pressure Israel to allow Palestinian players greater freedom of movement to represent their country.

Speaking in Ramallah after last week's first-ever home game for the Palestinian national side, Mohamed Bin Hammam - who currently serves as president of the Asian Football Confederation - said that Israel had a huge responsibility to allow Palestinian footballers freedom of movement, both in their home country and overseas.

In an interview with World Football Insider, Hammam said that he "would like to support the Palestinian athletes, especially the footballers, to gain their independence and gain their own character. We hope, of course, by sport we can overcome the political differences between Arabs and Israelis. I hope the Israeli officials and supporters watch the match and we can build the bridges between national associations and sports people."

"According to World Football Insider, the Palestinians requested 12 players be allowed to make the short but obstacle-laden journey, but just four were allowed to pass. The report added that the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem would not comment on the banned players, only confirming the number that had been allowed to cross."

The issue infuriated the Palestinians, whose manager said that five of the banned players would have played a role in last week's game.

"Politics has nothing to do with sport," Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub told World Football Insider. "The Israelis are using this as an excuse, which is false and baseless, just to justify their irrational ideology to our Palestinian athletes."

Bin Hammam also claimed that he was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport for two hours without explanation on Monday night - despite holding a diplomatic passport.