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UAE, Israeli soccer clubs to face off in practice match in Serbia

Next week’s game between Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Sharjah FC follows match between Maccabi Netanya and Emirati squad of under 23-year-olds

Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona players (blue) during a match against Beitar Jerusalem at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on January 4, 2020. (Flash90)
Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona players (blue) during a match against Beitar Jerusalem at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on January 4, 2020. (Flash90)

Israeli and Emirati soccer squads will face off next week for a practice match at a training camp in Serbia in the latest demonstration of friendly ties between the two countries that normalized relations less than a year ago.

Ironi Kiryat Shmona will take on Sharjah FC next Thursday in one of the first matches between teams from Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier this month, Maccabi Netanya faced off against an Emirati squad of up to 23-year-olds.

The UAE’s Al-Ain club had been scheduled to play Israel’s Maccabi Haifa earlier this year, but the match was canceled due to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the two teams signed an agreement of cooperation in February that Al-Ain club chairman Mohamed Thaaloob said “will consolidate the policy of bridge-building and cooperation between the two major clubs in various fields including marketing, technical cooperation, investment, commercial activities, media and sport.”

“I am pleased to witness this important moment in the history of the Israeli and Emirati game, and for sport in general,” said Yaqoub Shahar, president of Maccabi Haifa.

Last October — a month after the signing of the Abraham Accords — the Emirati and Israeli football federations signed a cooperation agreement, a first between the two nations, intended to promote closer sporting ties.

A month before that agreement, Emirati club Al-Nasr signed Israeli player Diaa Saba, who is of Palestinian heritage, becoming the first Israeli player to sign for a club in an Arab league.

AFP contributed to this report

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