Game on: Palestinian West Bank, Gaza leagues will play in a cup match to remember
Hebron's al-Ahly player Osama Shaban (L) fights for the ball with Gaza Strip's Shejaiya Mustaf Hasaballah during the first leg match of the Palestine Cup final at Yarmuk Stadium in Gaza City, on August 6, 2015, as the two teams play each other for the first time in 15 years. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
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It had been a while since Palestinian football players from the West Bank and Gaza met.
On Thursday, for the first time in 15 years, the leagues faced off in a match that determined the team to represent Palestine internationally. The game that ended in a goalless draw was initially scheduled to be played again Sunday — but with strict Israeli border control, fans feared it may never happen.
Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed the Gaza Strip's Shejaiya club successfully crossed the Gaza border Wednesday, making its way to the occupied West Bank's Hebron to play al-Ahli, AFP reported. The match was postponed when some of the players weren't cleared by Israeli security to leave the Strip.
The match will determine the winner of the Palestine Cup, which would then move on to represent Palestine in international competitions.
The upcoming match, initially scheduled for Sunday, was postponed after Israel asked four of Shejaiya's players to submit security interviews to leave Gaza. The Palestinian Football Association and Shejaiya refused.
Three of the players were still questioned for two hours before they were allowed to cross into Israel Wednesday, the association's Ismail Matar told AFP.
Feuds between the Strip's Hamas and West Bank's Palestinian Authority have created tensions between the two territories; the game is seen as a symbol of Palestinian unity, according to AFP.