Last updated: 5 January, 2015

FIFA visit Gaza to help rebuild stadiums

A FIFA delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday to help with a rebuilding project for football stadiums damaged during last year's Israeli bombardment.

The world football governing body is investing one million dollars (840,000 euros) to help rebuild stadiums in the Palestinian territory, many of which were damaged during the conflict between Israel and Hamas last July and August.

“Once the 20 rebuilding projects are finished, FIFA president Joseph Blatter will come to inaugurate them,” said David Borja, the FIFA delegate responsible for development in Asia.

He added that FIFA were committed to “supporting football in the Gaza Strip and its development by bringing help and materials”.

Nafez Okasha, the Palestinian Football Federation chief, said the money would be used to “replace synthetic pitches in the 20 stadiums”.

He added that these could be inaugurated as early as summer this year.

Another $200,000 from FIFA has been earmarked to repair the Palestine national stadium in Gaza, which was damaged during bombings in 2006 and 2012.

The FIFA delegation, due to leave the enclave on Tuesday, were supposed to watch a match between two Gazan sides but missed it after being held up at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza for several hours by the Israeli military, Okasha said.

The Palestinians were upgraded from observer entity to a United Nations “observer state” in 2012, and although not yet universally recognised as a state, the Palestine national team was recognised by FIFA in 1998.

Last year they qualified for the first time for the Asian Cup finals, due to begin in Australia on Thursday.