Rival Palestinian clubs set for `historic` clash
Palestinian football fans are gearing up for an "historic" clash with the West Bank-based Al-Ahli and Gaza`s Shejaya set to play each other for the first time in 15 years.
Ramallah: Palestinian football fans are gearing up for an "historic" clash with the West Bank-based Al-Ahli and Gaza`s Shejaya set to play each other for the first time in 15 years.
Tuesday`s game in Yarmuk in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip is being seen as a symbol of Palestinian unity after last year`s devastating conflict with Israel and months of political backbiting.
"We hope that the match will be a way to embody the unity of our people, especially since our politicians are so divided," said Ahli President Kifah al-Sherif.
"If it goes ahead it will be proof that sport can achieve advances that politics cannot."
There is some doubt over whether the game will even take place, given that Ahli, champions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, have get to receive permission to travel to Gaza.
To get there, the players will need to travel through southern Israel, and their entry to Gaza itself is also subject to Israeli permission.
A 50-day war in Gaza in July-August 2014 killed about 2,200 Palestinians, 73 on the Israeli side, and destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes in the besieged coastal territory.
Reconstruction work has only just begun after around 18,000 houses were destroyed in the conflict.
Palestinian politicians are currently embroiled in a long-running row that led to the collapse of a unity government last month.
According to Gazan sports journalist Ashraf Matar, as many as 10,000 fans could pack into the Yarmuk stadium see two of the Palestinian game`s best clubs.
The fixture "will be the first breach in the siege imposed on sport in Gaza, not to mention the political and economic siege" by Israel, Matar said.
For nine years, Israel has imposed a blockade on the territory, limiting the flow of goods and people across its land and sea borders.
The winner of Tuesday`s game will go on to represent Palestine -- a member of world governing body FIFA since 1998 -- at a number of international competitions.