In Bahrain, FIFA chief promises more Palestinian soccer fields
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In Bahrain, FIFA chief promises more Palestinian soccer fields

At US-run workshop, Gianni Infantino says sport will give hopes and dreams to those in Gaza and West Bank

FIFA President Gianni Infantino waves as he arrives for a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Rogerio Caboclo at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on April 10, 2019. (EVARISTO SA / AFP)
FIFA President Gianni Infantino waves as he arrives for a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Rogerio Caboclo at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on April 10, 2019. (EVARISTO SA / AFP)

MANAMA, Bahrain — The head of FIFA promised Wednesday to build more soccer fields in the West Bank and Gaza as he joined a US-led economic workshop in Bahrain on drawing investment.

Gianni Infantino, president of world soccer’s governing body, took part in the Peace to Prosperity conference led by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner despite a boycott by the Palestinian Authority, which fears a bid to impose a political solution through money.

“Let’s give, to be very concrete as well, some hope, some dreams,” Infantino said.

Joining a panel led by Thomas Barrack, an Arab-American real estate investor and vocal backer of Trump, Infantino said the West Bank and Gaza had fewer than 25 proper soccer fields for a population of five million.

Palestinian women watch the soccer match between Al-Nuseirat and Al-Jalaa standing outside the fence of the stadium at Nuseirat refugee camp, south of Gaza City, on January 28, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

“We will do our part at FIFA,” he said.

“Let’s do something tangible and concrete that people can see, and when kids play football, first they smile and, secondly, they don’t do other things.”

Infantino also said the next World Cup, in Qatar in 2022, could improve international perceptions of the Arab world.

It will “show the world what Arabs are like — welcoming, open, great food, incredible history, tradition,” said the Italian, whose wife is Lebanese.

“I think that football can play, certainly, a little role but an important one,” he said.

Players from Gaza’s Shabab Rafah soccer team celebrate following their victory in the second leg of the Palestinian Cup final at the stadium in the city of Dura, near the West Bank town of Hebron, on August 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

Kushner, a White House adviser, unveiled a plan at the workshop that calls for $50 billion in investment over 10 years and the creation of one million Palestinian jobs in what he billed as the “Opportunity of the Century.”

But he said acceptance of the framework was a prerequisite for a deal on hot-button political issues.

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