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Israeli National Team Lands in Saudi Arabia for FIFA’s Video Game World Cup

A team of Israeli gamers landed in Saudi Arabia on Friday to take part in the video game version of the FIFA World Cup, hosted in its capital Riyadh. Although Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t have official relations, Israeli journalists, businessmen, and other figures have increasingly been allowed to visit the Islamic kingdom in recent years.

Three team members, their trainer, and the deputy manager entered the country via the United Arab Emirates on their Israeli passports for the event, which will run from July 16-19, according to media reports. Zvika Kosman, manager of the team, told Kan News that he worked with FIFA to ensure the Saudis would allow the team into the country.

Kosman said Saudi authorities penned a letter stressing all participants would be allowed in the country, without specifying Israelis. He stated that there was no direct contact between the Israeli and Saudi governments and that messages were passed along by FIFA.

Kosman added that the team will not visibly show off their Israeli identity in public, but will not hide their nationality at the tournament. Kan reported that security for the team will be handled by local authorities and a private entity.

The FIFA World Cup is held annually and sees participants face off in the latest version of the acclaimed soccer video game. This year is the first time Saudi Arabia has hosted the event. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has intensified its efforts to broker an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization agreement in recent months, with several senior officials visiting Riyadh to raise the issue with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

US officials have acknowledged that the likelihood of a deal is not particularly high, given significant Saudi demands for security guarantees from the US as well as a major gesture for the Palestinians from Israel. A US official told The Times of Israel last month that recent Israeli settlement announcements had led Morocco to cancel plans to host a Negev Forum ministerial summit next month and that they also “taint” efforts to secure an Israeli-Saudi normalization deal.


Times of Israel
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