(JNS.org) FIFA, world soccer's governing body, has reversed its decision mandating that Saudi Arabia play its World Cup qualifying match in Ramallah against the Palestinians and ordered that the match be played in neutral territory.
The decision came after objections by Saudi Arabia against playing the match with the Palestinian national team in Ramallah. Saudi officials had cited security concerns for their refusal. FIFA also ordered a Palestinian home game against Malaysia to be played elsewhere.
FIFA said the decision "followed a meeting held in Palestine yesterday (Tuesday) between FIFA’s security officer and local authorities, after which the Palestinian government confirmed that it could no longer guarantee the safety and security around the matches in question,” Reuters reported.
"In view of this, the Emergency Bureau for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers has confirmed that the security guarantees cannot be compromised and that both matches need to be played on neutral ground," added FIFA.
Although Saudi officials have said that their refusal to play is due to security concerns, there may be another reason for their decision—that a match in Ramallah would be normalizing ties with Israel.
"We refuse to pass through Israeli crossings and play against Palestine," said the official spokesperson for the Saudi Football Association in a meeting on Oct. 19.