National football championship cancelled after Gaza team denied travel permits

The Palestinian National Soccer Club was forced to cancel their national championship game Wednesday 25 September after Khadamat Rafah, the famed soccer team from Gaza, was barred by Israeli officials from travelling to compete in the West Bank.

Judge Moshe Sobel on behalf of The Coordinator of Civil Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a branch of the Israeli Ministry of Defense delivered the ruling, citing threats to security as recommended by the Shin Bet security service.

Although just a few kilometres separate the Palestinian territories, permits are required to travel from the coastal enclave to the West Bank ever since a blockade was enforced by Israeli forces in 2006.

After a suspense-filled match hosted in Gaza back in June ended in a draw, Khadamat Rafah was set to face off with their rival team from Balata Refugee Camp near the city of Nablus for the final championship game.

The team had made two attempts to gain permits for all 22 team members and 13 officials and postponed the game from July to September before cancelling after only five players were approved on the second attempt.

Gisha, an Israeli rights group, has since tried to challenge COGAT’s ruling by appealing to a Jerusalem District Court citing a violation of Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement” members of Gisha claimed.

Little has been released to the public by COGAT as to why the permits were denied aside from security forces who spoke on the team’s alleged links to extremist organisations.

Members of the team, officials, and fans alike were enraged by the ruling. Eager to represent Palestine on the world stage, the winners of Wednesday’s game would have gone on to compete in the Asian Champions League, and sequentially the opportunity to compete in the FIFA World Cup.

It’s a terrible feeling after training so hard, said Ahmad Abu Thuhair, a Khadamat Rafah team member whose permit application was rejected.

Source: Palestine Monitor