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Alex Wright

#Trending: Saudis hail decision to withdraw from Palestine qualifier

Football fans in Saudi Arabia have cheered the decision [alAraby]

Date of publication: 4 November, 2015

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Blog: Saudi Twitter users have cheered the decision by the kingdom's football federation not to play a World Cup qualifier on occupied Palestinian land.
Twitter users in Saudi Arabia have commended the country's decision to pull out of Thursday's match against Palestine in Ramallah, having previously cited "exceptional circumstances" around the fixture.

Many Arab nations refuse to play in the West Bank, arguing it legitimises Israel's occupation of the territory.

"The Saudi federation has sent an official letter in which it announced withdrawing from the match against Palestine scheduled for Thursday," said Adnan al-Moaibed, spokesman for the Saudi football federation.

     
      Many Arab nations refuse to play in the West Bank [AAAJ]
The new match date had been set by FIFA on October 21.

The teams played each other in Jeddah in June in the first of their two scheduled Asia zone World Cup qualifiers, with the Saudis winning 3-2.

The return leg was then set for October 13, again in the West Bank, but, in September, Saudi Arabia demanded the fixture be played on neutral ground.

That demand was accepted by the World Cup organising committee, but the Palestinian Football Federation refused to accept the decision, saying it set a "dangerous precedent".

Social media reaction

In Twitter-obsessed Saudi Arabia, one of the most highly trending hashtags recently has been #SaudiTeamWithdraws, being used in more than 100,000 tweets.

"The message is clear: We are serious on our stance towards the Palestinian cause. Stay proud Saudi Arabia," tweeted Saudi YouTube star Feras Bugnah.

Hamas' official Twitter account joined in saying: "We welcome the withdrawal of the Saudi football team from the world cup qualifier on occupied Palestinian land. We respect this position against normalising relations with Israel."

Adel al-Shayim said it was a decision "to be proud of".

"The kingdom's position towards the Palestinian cause is so unwavering that even going into Ramallah is admission that there is a country called Israel," he said.

Saudi media personality Ali al-Dafiri "saluted" Saudi sports and politics, saying: "This is not a withdrawal, it's a big win."

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