Palestinian national team will travel for first match to be staged in Iraq since 2003 - officials.
The Palestinian national football team will travel to Iraq this week for a friendly, the first international match staged in the war-torn country since 2003, officials have confirmed.
"The match comes in a political and sports context, and is an expression of the Palestinian commitment to breaking the siege of Iraq and to celebrating with Iraqis the departure of American forces from Iraqi cities," Jibril Rajub, head of the Palestinian football association told reporters in Ramallah.
The two teams will meet on Friday in the northern city of Arbil in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq and hope to schedule a second match in Baghdad, Rajub said.
The Asian Football Confederation and FIFA, football's world governing body, have given their approval for the Arbil match, according to Najih Hmud, vice-president of the Iraqi football association.
"This match is the first step towards ending the ban imposed by FIFA on international matches in Iraq because of the situation our country was going through."
The Iraqi national team won the Asian Cup in 2007 but last month, under new Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic, they crashed out of the Confederations Cup in South Africa without scoring a single goal.
After visiting Iraq the Palestinian team will head to China for a friendly on July 18.
Rajub said the Palestinian side's new coach Musa Bazaz, 52, a French citizen of Algerian descent, would arrive in the West Bank on Monday.
Rajub, who gained a reputation for toughness as chief of the Palestinian Authority's feared preventive security agency, has been actively promoting football since becoming federation head in May 2008.
Last year under his leadership the federation financed the construction of a stadium in the West Bank town of Al-Ram outside Jerusalem and the team played its first ever home match against Jordan in October.
Palestine has been affiliated to FIFA since 1998, even though the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip do not have statehood. Games are broadcast to the Arab world by the Saudi-owned ART television network.