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Football

01st Jul 2023

FAI contacted over becoming first European side to play Palestine

Rory Fleming

FAI Palestine

The move comes off the back of Robbie Keane’s controversial appointment at Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The FAI have been contacted over the possibility of becoming the first European nation to face off against Palestine in an international football match.

Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward got in touch with the FAI to discuss the possibility of the Irish national team, or possibly an all-Ireland squad, taking part in what would be a historic friendly.

Palestine, which was officially recognised by FIFA back in 1998, have never played against European opposition despite Israel’s participation in European competitions.

Speaking to The News Arab, the Dublin Mid-West TD said that the idea of Ireland playing against Palestine originates from his trip there last November, in which he met with Palestinian officials and members of their football association.

“During that meeting it came up in conversation that the Palestinian football team had never played any international soccer team in Europe”, Mr. Ward said.

“I think… (this) is quite telling. So I (asked), would the Palestinian FA welcome a match against Ireland and they were very open to the idea”.

Members of the Palestinian FA are set to visit Ireland in August, with the Sinn Féin politician trying to facilitate a meeting with FAI representatives to discuss the potential friendly fixture.

If the game were to ultimately take place, Mr. Ward believes that it would undoubtedly be a sell-out at the Aviva Stadium, remarking that;

“There are also the long historic and cultural links between Palestine and Ireland… we have both been victims of an occupying force, we have both been victims of borders and land grabs in our own country, and the Irish people have always had this really, really strong connection (with Palestine) because of that”.

FAI PalestineKeane was this week appointed the manager of Israeli Premier League side Maccabi Tel Aviv. (Credit: Getty Images)

Controversy around Robbie Keane’s Israeli appointment:

Ireland’s record caps holder and goalscorer Robbie Keane was this week appointed as the manager of Israeli Premier League side Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The move has been widely condemned, given Israel’s frequent terrorising of the Palestinian state.

Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews this week tweeted that;

“Very, very disappointing that Irish football icon Robbie Keane would sign up with racist and apartheid club Maccabi Tel Aviv. Keane is in a position to set an example and boycott apartheid, but chose not to!!”

Meanwhile, Mark Ward himself described the move as Israel’s own attempt at sports-washing.

Keane has attempted to push back against these criticisms, saying in a press conference this week that he “doesn’t want to get into politics”.

The former Tottenham Hotspur striker also added that “This is the last time I will say it. I’m here as a football man and someone that loves the game. I will certainly just focus on that”.

It has also since been announced that fellow former Republic of Ireland international Rory Delap will be joining Keane in the Israeli capital as one of his assistants.

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