FIFA Delegation Visits Gaza After 12 Years, Pledges Funds for Stadiums

Sports authority's reps committed to invest $1.2 million to repair soccer-field surfaces and repair the national stadium.

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Israeli and Palestinian children shake hands during an event opening a year of training of an Israeli-Palestinian soccer program launched by the Peres Center for Peace, Kibbutz Dorot, Sept. 1, 2014.Credit: Reuters
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A delegation from FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, visited Gaza for the first time in 12 years and pledged funds to repair soccer fields and rebuild damaged sports infrastructure, media reports say.

AFP reported that in the Monday visit, FIFA committed to invest $1.2 million to repair soccer-field surfaces and repair the national stadium, which was damaged in conflicts in 2006 and 2012.

The work on the soccer pitches could be completed by this summer, Nafez Okasha, the Palestinian Football Federation chief, as saying.

Okasha also told the news service that the FIFA representatives were supposed to watch a match between two Gazan groups.

But they missed the match after the Israeli military held up the delegation at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza for several hours.

The that Israel said the delegation was delayed because one of its members had not coordinated the visit with the military in advance.

The delegation was led by FIFA's senior development manager for Asia, David Borja, reports say.

The Palestine national team was recognized by FIFA in 1998. Last year it qualified for the first time for the Asian Cup finals, in Australia later this week.

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