For Israelis and Palestinians, a Football Match For Peace Is Like a Political Solution—Far-Fetched

Blue and white flags, emblazoned with the Star of David, on one side ; green, white, black and red on the other. Two sets of fans—Israeli and Palestinian. Two enemies in a decades-long conflict—not one about land, but over who can score the most goals.

This is the ambition of Israeli Football Association (IFA) President Ofer Eini, who in May revived disgraced former FIFA Sepp Blatter’s 2015 proposal for a match for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The game, he said, would act as a “bridge to bring people together,” with all profits going to a joint Israeli-Palestinian football academy.

Eini made his offer at FIFA’s annual congress in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, on May 11, after the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) once again failed to persuade members to vote on its motion to ban six Israeli teams from playing in West Bank settlements Ma’aleh Adumin, Kiryat Arba, Ariel, Oranit, Givat Ze’ev and a cluster of settlements in the Jordan Valley.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and a majority of his members (73 percent) delayed the vote on the same day as Eini’s offer, setting a deadline of March 2018 for a decision on the Palestinian motion to ban the clubs. In a statement, FIFA said it was too “premature” to decide on the final status of the clubs. He said he would put the issue on the agenda of a FIFA council meeting in October. It is the fifth year FIFA has delayed a decision on the issue.

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