Blatter promises help for Palestine
TULKAREM, West Bank (AP)
The head of football's world governing body has promised to help the Palestinian national team.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter is visiting several sites in the West Bank during his second trip to the Palestinian territories. The visit comes after FIFA's Congress called on Blatter to improve the state of the game in Palestine last month.
Members of the Palestinian national team are often unable to play in games because of travel restrictions between the West Bank and Gaza. The head of the Palestinian Football Association calls the restrictions a "siege on Palestinian sport."
Blatter says he will assist the Palestinians "where he can."
The Palestinians' anger is palpable, and has been apparent for years. Israel's security forces control the movement between Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which frequently prevent athletes from travelling freely between the two areas.
Previously, Israel have cited security concerns but says it has since eased travel for athletes between the Palestinian territories.
Other nationalities have also been affected. Recently two teenagers from Myanmar were stuck in Jordan for a week awaiting clearance so they could play in an under-17 tournament before eventually being granted access to the Palestinian territories.
The Palestine FA became a FIFA member in 1998, a move that was also supported by Israel's FA. Palestine were knocked out of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers after losing 3-2 to Thailand in a two-leg tie, having previously beaten Afghanistan.
Both home matches were played in the Palestinian territories.
Earlier this week, Blatter returned from the Confederations Cup in Brazil where FIFA was among various targets of nationwide protests sweeping the country