Bahrain invited to play friendly match in Gaza

June 17, 2010

Bahrain’s national football team has been invited to play a friendly match in besieged Gaza.

The invitation from Basem Al Naim, the Palestinian youth and sports minister, is likely to be supported by Bahrainis, unlike the call to play a friendly in Ramallah.

No date was mentioned in the invitation conveyed by the minister to a Bahraini delegation from the Royal Charity Foundation on a humanitarian mission to the blockaded Strip to deliver food and medical supplies.

The foundation, chaired by Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of the king, has been an ardent supporter of the Palestinian people, particularly orphans, and has regularly sought to help them with assistance from Bahraini doctors and activists. 

Bahrain will probably play against a formation of Gaza-based players since the national team is based in Ramallah.

An invitation to play the national team waded into controversy after several players said that they would not want to travel to Ramallah and have their passports stamped by Israeli border authorities.

Islamists vociferously opposed the match, saying that it amounted to the “recognition of the Zionist entity.”
Pleas by the Palestinian ambassador to Bahrain, Ahmad Ramadhan, to appreciate that Israel would not be involved in the match organization and that the passports of the Bahraini team and delegation would not be stamped by Israel have not convinced some of the players or the lawmakers to accept the match.

Sources said that the match against the Palestinian national squad could take place in August within in a regional tournament that would include two Arab teams from the region.

Bahrain’s football team was in November minutes away from qualifying for the World Cup finals being staged now in South Africa. A missed penalty in the second half led to a sorrowful exit of the team.

Bahrain, like most Arab countries, has no diplomatic relations with Israel although it had shut down an office to oversee the boycott of Israeli goods as part of a free trade agreement with the USA in 2005.

A call made last year by Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa to Arabs to open up new channels of communication using Israeli media to help explain Arab peace initiatives and plans and highlight the Arabs’ desire for peace had waded into controversy.

An initiative by Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa to set up a regional forum that brings together all Arab countries, Turkey, Iran and Israel to address the crises in the Middle East had also faltered, mainly after Israel attacked Gaza.

Israel in July briefly detained four Bahraini activists who were seized from a Gaza-bound aid ship. Last month, the Israelis again held four Bahrainis who were on Freedom flotilla after a deadly attack on the main vessel. The Bahrainis were later released.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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