Israel Denies Visa to Palestinian Soccer Official

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Players of the Palestinian soccer team in the West Bank town of A-Ram. Credit: AP

With soccer's international governing body FIFA due to discuss Israel's alleged mistreatment of the Palestinian national soccer team, Israel has denied a visa to the team's No. 3 official to fly to Brazil to take part in those discussions, Bloomberg reported Sunday.

Mohammed Ammassi, deputy general secretary of the Palestine Football Association, had planned to travel from Gaza to the West Bank to Jordan, and from there to fly to Brazil. FIFA's Congress is taking place in Sao Paolo on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The Palestine Football Association regrets to inform FIFA and the world football community that, at the time the situation of football in Palestine is to be discussed for the second time in the FIFA Congress, the third officially registered delegate of the Palestine Football Association has been denied permit to travel,” the association said Sunday in an e-mailed press release.

Maj. Guy Inbar, spokesman for the Civil Administration, said Ammassi’s visa request was rejected because he didn't file it at least 10 days before the date of departure, a security procedure that Inbar said had been agreed on with the Palestinian team. He added that if Ammassi resubmits his request, it will be duly considered.

Palestinian complaints against Israel reached a peak early this year when Israeli soldiers shot and severely wounded two Palestinian team members on their way home from a practice. Israel maintained that the pair were about to throw bombs at soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint.

The accusation that Israel hampers the team's ability to leave the territories for international matches goes back a few years, and has won sympathy from FIFA, including from president Sepp Blatter. At the same, though, Blatter has flatly rejected the Palestinian demand to expel Israel's team from the international association.

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