A FIFA delegation led by Tokyo Sexwale has visited Israel and Palestine as part of the ongoing efforts of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine to identify solutions to issues hindering the development of football in the region.
On Friday, the delegation visited Gaza where they could see first hand the facilities of the Palestinian FA that were destroyed in 2014. The FIFA delegation also met with representatives of the Israeli authorities, but the meeting with the Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport originally planned for Thursday had to be rescheduled due to the many flight delays following the terror attack on Istanbul airport. The delegation met representatives from the Israel and Palestinian football associations and Mr Sexwale has scheduled a meeting with the President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas.
“Although we understand politics, that is not the purpose of this mission. Politics and conflict do have a bearing on sporting issues and we need to ensure that they are managed so that they don’t overpower FIFA’s main objective of ensuring football for all.
“Therefore, it was very important for me to meet and discuss with the respective public authorities. I was very pleased to feel on both sides a real commitment towards facilitating the development of our game. Of course, the route is long and progress is slow but I am confident that we will find credible solutions,” said Mr Sexwale.
The discussions focused on the measures currently being developed to better deal with permit applications and avoid security-related delays with regard to the free movement of Palestinian people and equipment connected with football, an area where marked progress has been achieved. The pending issue of territory and the question of the five clubs that are affiliated to the Israel Football Association were also addressed and will continue to be discussed with all parties in order to find a lasting solution.
On his visit, Mr Sexwale also announced the forthcoming trip to the region by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, with whom Mr Sexwale has been in contact during the visit.
“As part of my mandate, I came here to see with my own eyes and listen to everyone. What I see is pain: pain that the Palestinian and Israeli people shouldn’t have to go through. This region needs peace, which comes through dialogue, and football can help in this dialogue. I will now report to the FIFA President and the Congress for them to take further decisions.”
The Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine was established by the 65th FIFA Congress in May 2015 to identify solutions that will enable the development of football in the region and its mandate was recently extended at the 66th FIFA Congress in Mexico. The committee includes leaders of both the Israel and Palestinian football associations.