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Al-Khader football stadium, donated by Portugal, to be inaugurated Monday with match between Nazareth and Al-Khader

April 26, 2007 8:46 P.M. (Updated: April 26, 2007 8:46 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - A new international football stadium will be inaugurated next Monday, in the village of Al-Khader, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The stadium was funded by Portugal, through the Portuguese Institute for Cooperation for Development (IPAD).

Following an inauguration ceremony, the stadium's first match will take place between the local team of Al-Khader, reinforced by the best Palestinian players, and Maccabi Akhi Natsrat, a team from Nazareth in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been invited to attend, the coordinating officials said on Thursday. However, according to a press release from the Portuguese representative office to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Palestinian Minister of Tourism Dr. Kholoud Daibes will be present. The Portuguese representative to the Palestinian Authority, Dr. Jorge Torres Pereira, will also give a speech on behalf of the Portuguese government and the cooperation institute. Al-Khader mayor, Mr. Adnan Sbeih, will also speak.

The mayor of Nazareth, Ramiz Jaraysah, has also been invited to attend the ceremony, the coordinators told Ma'an; in addition to his deputy Ali Salam; the president of the administrative board, Kayid Abu Ayyash; Dr Tawfiq Kanaani; and the spokesman of the team, Omar Al-Ju'ba.

According to coordinating officials on Thursday, the Nazareth will arrive at 3:00 pm on Monday. This team, although representing Maccabi Akhi Natsrat, an Israeli first division team which includes both Arab and Jewish players, will only include Arab players on Monday.

Following dinner in their hotel with several dignitaries and eminent sports figures, the team will be treated to a tour of Bethlehem, including visits to the Church of the Nativity, Solomon's Pools and the village of Al-Khader.

After a short rest in the hotel, the delegation will then travel to the new stadium for the ceremony and match.

The ceremony will start with a march by local scout groups, carrying the Portuguese and Palestinian flags, and the two national anthems will be played, the Portuguese press release said.

The organisers said that Al-Khader municipality has prepared red-and-white football shirts for the Nazareth team, bearing the name of the team. According to the Portuguese press release, the Portuguese news agency LUSA has reported that Portugal will also offer the shirts of Portuguese footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco and Quaresma. These shirts are expected to remain in an exhibition room at Al-Khader stadium.

According to the Portuguese office in Ramallah, the match organisers are also trying to receive video messages from Luís Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, José Mourinho and Luís Felipe Scolari, to be broadcast during the ceremony.

According to the Portuguese representative, Dr. Jorge Torres Pereira, these "would naturally be messages of support to the well known hopes and joys of football players and supporters and it would be another way of conveying a message of peace to the Palestinian youth, in the international language of sports."

Kick-off will be at 8:30pm, and the game will be followed by the presentation of trophies.

The Nazareth delegation will leave Al-Khader on Tuesday morning.

The Portuguese press release adds that Khalil Shahwan, the director for sports and youth in Bethlehem, thanked the "friendly nation of Portugal" for its important contribution in an interview published in Al-Quds newspaper. He said that he hoped that this act would serve as an example for other countries to help the Palestinians fulfil their needs.

The stadium cost around US $2 million to build, the Portuguese representative office says. It has a capacity for 6,000 spectators, boasts a synthetic pitch, illumination and is certified by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
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