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Israeli, UAE soccer federations to ink cooperation deal

Head of Emirati association says agreement ‘carries a message of peace,’ will be signed Monday in presence of FIFA chief

Israeli players watch the penalty shootout during the Euro 2020 playoff semi-final soccer match between Scotland and Israel at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on October 8, 2020. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)
Illustrative: Israel players watch the penalty shootout during the Euro 2020 playoff semi-final soccer match between Scotland and Israel at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on October 8, 2020. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The UAE Football Association said Saturday it would sign a memorandum of understanding with the Israel Football Association on Monday in Dubai, in the presence of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

The move comes after Israel established diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, signing an accord along with Bahrain in Washington in September.

The “cooperation agreement” with the Israeli FA includes “the establishment of friendly matches for all national teams and clubs” and “joint workshops for the technical and administrative members of the federations,” the United Arab Emirates’s FA said in a statement Saturday.

The agreement “comes in activation of the peace treaty that was signed between the United Arab Emirates and Israel,” General Secretary of UAE FA Mohammed Abdullah Hazzam al-Dhaheri was cited as saying in the statement.

“It is unique in the Middle East and carries a message of peace from the ‘land of peace,’ and we are confident that its outcome will be very positive and will serve both sides,” he added.

The presence of FIFA president Infantino to witness the signing “confirms FIFA’s encouragement for such initiatives that serve football,” the statement said, adding that the sport helps facilitate “rapprochement and the convergence of cultures.”

The UAE and Bahrain have signed a raft of deals with Israel since the September agreement, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.

On Monday, a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family bought half of Beitar Jerusalem, a top Israeli soccer team notorious for its anti-Arab fan base, the club said.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Nahyan signed a “partnership agreement” with club owner Moshe Hogeg, said a statement from Beitar, calling it a “historic and exciting day.”

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