14 November 2019

Players from Saudi Arabia’s national soccer team travelled to Jerusalem’s Old City in October to pray at one of Islam’s holiest sites.

The players visited Masjid al-Aqsa, the first qiblah and third holiest site in Islam.

“This is the most beautiful day in my life,” said Yasser Al-Mishal, the president of the Saudi Football Federation.

“Really, it’s hard to express my feelings. I thank God that I could visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray inside the mosque.”

The Saudi players visited ahead to a fixture with the Palestinian national team in the occupied West Bank for a World Cup qualifying match.

Saudi football fans are delighted about their national team’s historic match against their Palestinian “brothers” in the occupied West Bank.

Arab clubs and national teams have historically refused to play in the Palestinian territories — occupied by the Jewish state since 1967 — as it requires obtaining entry permits to Israel, a country most of them do not recognize.

“It is a good thing to support sport in Palestine given the situation there,” said the 27-year-old football fan Saad told AFP, his eyes locked on a screen playing a Saudi match in a cafe along Tahlia street, a restaurant-lined thoroughfare. “The Palestinian cause remains a fundamental one for Saudi Arabia.”

According to the Saudi Sports Authority, the decision to play in the West Bank was “at the request of the brothers in the Palestinian federation” and to ensure the team is “not deprived the chance to play at home and among its fans”.

Abu Abdallah, a Saudi businessman, said he believed it was an honor for his country’s team to play the Palestinians among their people.

“This is something rare to happen, and the Kingdom would not take any step unless it was in the interest of the Palestinian people or Saudi Arabia,” he said. SOURCE: Saudi Gazette