RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Iraq’s national team arrived in the West Bank on Friday for a friendly international match against the Palestine national team at the Faisal Husseini Stadium in Ram on the outskirts of Ramallah and abutting East Jerusalem.
The fixture on Saturday at 1400 GMT is expected to attract thousands of Palestinian fans who rarely see live international soccer.
The stadium lies on the Palestinian side of Israel’s separation barrier, which at that point is a concrete wall. It lies parallel to an Israeli Jerusalem urban settlement in the part of the city that Palestinians want for the capital of their future state.
The Iraqi delegation are paying their first visit to the Palestinian territories. They crossed into the Israeli-occupied West Bank from Jordan.
“This meeting certainly proves the brotherhood and bond between the two Arab nations – Iraqi and Palestinian – and I feel our presence is more important than the result,” Iraqi national team coach Basim Qasim told a pre-match news conference.
“We are carrying out our obligation to be here with our brothers here in Palestine,” Qasim said.
Qasim, whose contract expires next month, said he wanted to continue as coach and hoped the Iraqi FA will extend his tenure. Iraq has fixtures against Uzbekistan in September and South Korea in October.
(Reporting by Ismael Khader, Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Grant McCool)