Iraq football team plays first match in Palestinian territories

Al-Ram (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Iraq's national team played its first-ever football match in the Palestinian territories on Saturday and beat the home side 3-0 in a friendly.

Some 2,000 people attended the match in Al-Ram near Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, next to Israel's separation wall cutting off the Palestinian territory.

Most teams in Arab countries -- many of which do not recognise Israel -- refuse to visit the Palestinian territories because Israel controls the West Bank's borders and blockades the Gaza Strip.

But Palestinian leaders have for years called on Arab countries to send sporting and cultural delegations to help ease their isolation, and some have obliged.

The Palestinian Football Association called the match a victory even though its team was on the losing end.

"We call on all Arab teams to follow Iraq's lead and come to Palestine," said Susan Shalaby, vice president of the Palestinian Football Association.

One supporter at the match, Maria Qendah, said Iraq came "to say to Palestine you are not alone."

The Palestinian team, a FIFA member since 1998, in May drew 0-0 against Iraq in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.