Soccer Match Nets Dual Wins for PLO — Both on Field and off

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip chalked up dual victories Friday in a sports match in Jericho that was as much about nationalism as it was about soccer.

Responding to an invitation from the Variety Club of France to the “State of Palestine,” the Palestine Liberation Organization fielded a local soccer team against a French team that included such famous French veteran players such as Michel Platini and Alain Giresse.

The Palestinian team, playing under the flag of the PLO, beat France by a score of 1-0.

The game took on added significance in light of the PLO’s struggle to achieve world recognition of its claim to establish an independent state of Palestine. Last month, Israel and the PLO signed a mutual recognition pact.

It took ushers more than a half-hour to clear the field of fans who surged across the playing area before the players, dressed in the PLO colors, could kick off.

Spectators said the French lost their game against the Palestinians, in the presence of some 10,000 enthusiastic admirers, largely because of the field.

The rough, sandy terrain is a mud bath in winter and a dust bowl in summer. By halftime, players had churned the dust into a thick fog that obscured the other side of the field.

The Frenchmen said they found it difficult to play a proper game in such a rough makeshift pitch.

In Herzliya on Saturday, the same French team beat the Veterans of Israel team by a 6-2 score.

The French said they thought they had beaten the Israeli side because the Israeli players were considerably older than their own team members.

The secretary of the Israel Football Association, Ya’acov Arel, said later that the association officially opposed the match. Arel was concerned that the game against the Palestinians was legitimizing the creation of a Palestinian national team playing for a recognized independent state that does not exist.

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