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Soccer Head Supports Palestinians

November 6, 1999

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ The president of FIFA, the international soccer federation, supports the admission of the Palestinian football association to his organization, a Palestinian official said Saturday.

Ahmed Afifi, head of the Palestinian soccer federation, was speaking at a joint news conference with FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

``He supports our joining FIFA,″ Afifi said.

Blatter said ``I came here with my delegation to show Palestinians that we were behind the people of Palestine in the past and we will be supporting them in the future.″

Earlier, Blatter met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Blatter and his delegation were held up for 45 minutes by Israeli soldiers at the Erez checkpoint at the entrance to the Gaza Strip. He said he would ask the Israelis to make it easier for Palestinian soccer teams to pass back and forth between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Israel last week opened a route known as the ``safe passage″ for Palestinians to cross Israeli territory between the two areas.

Blatter told reporters FIFA has made $100 million available to the Palestinians over four years to improve soccer stadiums and promote the training of the national soccer team.

He laid the foundation stone for a new $4 million stadium north of Gaza City, to be funded by the Palestinian Youth and Sports Ministry.

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