FIFA says non-Israeli can play for Israel

JERUSALEM Thu Dec 1, 2011 7:54pm IST

Maccabi Haifa's Weaam Amasha (R) misses a shot against Racing Genk's goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles during their Champions League qualifying play-off first leg soccer match at Ramat Gan stadium near Tel Aviv August 17, 2011. REUTERS/Nir Elias/Files

Maccabi Haifa's Weaam Amasha (R) misses a shot against Racing Genk's goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles during their Champions League qualifying play-off first leg soccer match at Ramat Gan stadium near Tel Aviv August 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Nir Elias/Files

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - FIFA has given a Druze Arab from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights permission to play for Israel even though he is not a citizen of the country, the Israel FA said.

Maccabi Haifa's Weaam Amasha is the leading Israeli league scorer this season with 12 goals from 13 matches and he has notched six in European club competition but he was unable to play for Israel because he does not own a passport.

He was born in the Golan Heights territory which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war and annexed in 1981 in a move that has not been recognised internationally.

Golan Druze are entitled to Israeli citizenship since the annexation, but most of them, including Amasha, have not taken up the offer, citing historic links to Syria. Amasha goes overseas with Maccabi Haifa on an Israeli-issued travel document which is not a full passport.

"FIFA have decided to take the special case into consideration and will allow (Amasha) to play for the national team without a passport," an Israeli FA statement said.

Amasha told reporters on Thursday that he was pleased a solution had been found.

"I have been waiting for this news for a long time and like any player, I want to improve and play at the highest level. Now I must wait to be called up," Amasha said.

Amasha will have to wait to see if he is called up as no national squad announcement are imminent before Israel name a coach for their World Cup qualifying campaign starting next year.

The contract of current coach Luis Fernandez ends in June and is not expected to be renewed.

(Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Ed Osmond)

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