Will Saudi Arabia play in Palestine? That was the question on everyone’s lips from the moment Group D was drawn in July.
It is a question Football Palestine posed in the days following the draw. PFA President Jibril Rajoub was extremely guarded in his words in the lead up to this match. That changed this week when Rajoub addressed the crowd at the PFA Awards Ceremony on Sunday and defiantly declared that Palestine would only play in Palestine.
It was a stunning turnaround, as the whispers in many private circles was that Palestine would reluctantly accept playing in Jordan as they did in 2015 during 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
The announcement was made late on Tuesday evening in an unexpected place. Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas revealed the information during a meeting of Fatah’s General Committee in between discussing matters more political in nature- such as the first General Election in nearly a decade and a half.
The Saudi position also comes as a shock, after moving heaven and earth to avoid playing in Palestine in 2015, they have accepted to do so in 2019 with little fuss.
Saudi Arabia has no official relations with Israel and had previously stated that playing in Palestine would normalise the ongoing Israeli occupation.
All visitors to the West Bank must pass Israeli border control, including those crossing over by land from Jordan.
The national team will hold a six day training camp in Belgium fro October 4th to October 10th. The original dates were slated for late August but were altered after some players had difficulty obtaining visas.
Gaza-born Mohammed Kahail who plays in the Belgian third tier for La Louviere Centre will participate in the camp- a welcome addition to a group needing depth at the centre back position.
The national team have a bye on Match Day Three and will use that time to travel back to Palestine. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia play host to Singapore on the same day.
Palestine have never beaten Saudi Arabia and are 0-2-3 in five official meetings agains the three time Champions of Asia.