Egyptian soccer association rejects friendly match with Israel

Egypt's soccer association has turned down a proposal that it play Israel's national team in a friendly match, Haaretz reported on Wednesday.

According to the newspaper, the game was proposed by the Israeli Football Association (IFA) earlier this week, after Egyptian lawmaker Tawfik Okasha had a shoe thrown at him in parliament for inviting the Israeli ambassador to dinner.

The meeting between Okasha and the Israeli envoy caused an outrage in parliament, and Okasha was ultimately dismissed from the legislature because of the meeting.

“The main objective behind the request is to break the barriers between the two countries and to spread a peaceful atmosphere,” the IFA said when proposing the game, according to Haaretz.

Azmi Megahed, media spokesman for the Egyptian Football Association, rejected the idea and responded that the notion of the national team facing an Israeli team would not be tolerated by the Egyptian people.

“We will not agree to any matches with the Israel national team or any Israeli clubs." Megahed was quoted as having said.

"The idea of facing Israel is unacceptable to us because the Egyptian people would never agree to it,” he added, noting that Israel's proposal came at a time when the two countries were vying to host the Youth Basketball World Cup. Israel was trying to convince Egypt to withdraw its bid, Megahed said, but Egypt has no intention of stepping down.

Haaretz noted that the this is the second time Egypt has declined to play an international friendly with Israel. The then-African champions refused to play the Israeli team after winning the championship in Angola six years ago. 

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt continues to come under scrutiny in Egypt. In fact, a recent poll found that Egyptians see Israel as the "most hostile" of their neighbors, despite the peace treaty.

In 2013, the movement that led the opposition to former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi said it would target the peace treaty with Israel, by collecting signatures to a petition calling for its cancellation.

Prior to the Okasha incident, there was anger in Egypt after an Israeli book written by Army Radio's Arab affair analyst was allowed into an international book fair in Cairo.

But despite the rejection of the peace agreement by the public and some parliamentarians, there has been a warming of ties under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who recently appointed a new ambassador to Israel after several years without one.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/208830

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