Posted by: Lister | August 21, 2007

Britain boycotts Gaza football

That seems to be the effect. New UK visa rules halt Palestinian youth football tour:

The squad, from a nation where there are no grass pitches and no league and where the £2m national stadium has been bombed, have learnt of new complications in securing visas. They are also seeking an escort to take them across Israel to Amman, in Jordan, from where flights to Britain have been booked.

The problems come amid continuing fundraising efforts, supported by the comedians and Independent columnists Alexei Sayle and Mark Steel, to pay for a tour which aims to “introduce Palestinians to Britain in a positive way”. The trip would also help to develop a team for a diaspora scattered between Gaza, the West Bank and Syria, which cannot train in Palestine.

The tour’s British organiser, Rod Cox, who works for an organisation based in Chester which arranges exchanges between the two countries, said changes to the visa regime in the past four weeks meant that squad members living in Gaza would have to attend a sub-branch of the British consulate there, to provide fingerprints and be photographed. Their visa applications must then be taken by courier to a main consulate building in East Jerusalem and processed – all within two weeks.

[…] Palestine’s senior football team know how they feel. When they played Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifier in neutral Bahrain three years ago (games on home soil are out of the question), the 10 players travelling from the Gaza Strip repeatedly travelled to Rafah in an effort to cross the border. After a series of daylong detentions, they were eventually refused departure. Five of the squad were eventually allowed to cross after strenuous diplomatic efforts. These kinds of problems forced the side’s Austrian manager, Alfred Riedl, to recruit players from Chile, whose Arab population goes back a century, Egypt, Syria, and Kuwait, and even one American.

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