In first, Iraq soccer team plays Palestinians in West Bank
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In first, Iraq soccer team plays Palestinians in West Bank

Local squad falls 3-0 in friendly, but Palestinian Football Association hails visit anyway, calls on others to follow suit

Palestine's Tamer Syam, left and Iraq's Mazin Fyad vie for the ball during the friendly soccer match between Palestine and Iraq at the Faisal al-Husseini stadium in the West Bank town of al-Ram on August 4, 2018. (AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestine's Tamer Syam, left and Iraq's Mazin Fyad vie for the ball during the friendly soccer match between Palestine and Iraq at the Faisal al-Husseini stadium in the West Bank town of al-Ram on August 4, 2018. (AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

AL-RAM, West Bank — Iraq’s national soccer team played its first-ever match in the Palestinian territories on Saturday, beating the home side 3-0 in a friendly.

Some 2,000 people attended the match in al-Ram near Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Most teams in Arab countries — many of which do not recognize Israel — refuse to visit the Palestinian territories because Israel controls the West Bank’s borders and maintains a blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep terror groups from arming themselves.

But Palestinian leaders have for years called on Arab countries to send sporting and cultural delegations to help ease their isolation, and some have obliged.

Supporters carry an Iraqi and a Palestinian flag during the friendly soccer match between Palestine and Iraq at the Faisal al-Husseini stadium in the West Bank town of al-Ram on August 4, 2018. (AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

The Palestinian Football Association called the match a victory even though its team was on the losing end.

“We call on all Arab teams to follow Iraq’s lead and come to Palestine,” said Susan Shalaby, vice president of the Palestinian Football Association.

One supporter at the match, Maria Qendah, said Iraq came “to say to Palestine you are not alone.”

The Palestinian team, a FIFA member since 1998, in May drew 0-0 against Iraq in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

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