SAO PAULO  — The feel-good Palestinian winner of last year’s “Arab Idol” competition kicked off the FIFA Congress on Tuesday with a call of “viva Palestine.”

Mohammed Assaf’s impromptu shout to his homeland from Sao Paulo came as Israelis and Palestinians continued their stalemate over the free movement of Palestinian footballers.

Late last month, in a visit to the region, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he hoped an agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian football associations would be “signed and sealed” before the World Cup. He has called on the parties to “separate politics and sports.”

Earlier Tuesday, Israel’s sports minister wrote to Blatter to defend her country’s restrictions on some Palestinian players on security grounds. She singled out a national team player whom Israel arrested in late April on suspicion that he met Islamic Hamas militants.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.