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UAE and Israeli Soccer Clubs to Play First Friendly Matches Following Normalization Agreement

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) soccer club Al-Ain will play Israel’s Maccabi Haifa in two friendly matches in the near future, according to a report by the Times of Israel.

The first match will be hosted by Al-Ain while the second will be held in Haifa. The dates for the matches have yet to be made public.

The announcement comes after the UAE’s landmark move to normalize relations with Israel in August.

“[The agreement] will consolidate the policy of bridge-building and cooperation between the two major clubs in various fields including marketing, technical cooperation, investment, commercial activities, media and sport,” said Mohamed Thaaloob, chairman of the Al-Ain club investment company, the Times of Israel reported.

“I am pleased to witness this important moment in the history of the Israeli and Emirati game, and for sport in general,” Yaqoub Shahar, president of Maccabi Haifa Club, also said in a statement to the outlet.

In December 2020, the UAE Football Association signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli Football Association in Dubai to establish closer sporting ties. 

The agreement was signed in the presence of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the National News reported at the time.

In September 2020, Diaa Saba also became the first Israeli to play in the UAE after joining Al-Nasr, the professional association football club located in Al Nasr, Dubai.

The UAE is not the only Arab country to normalize diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Relations between Bahrain and Israel were also normalized in September 2020. In December 2020, Morocco also normalized ties with Israel while Bahrain normalized relations with the Jewish state on October 23, 2020. 

The recent diplomatic pacts between Israel and Arab nations are the first since Jordan recognized Israel in 1994 and Egypt in 1997.

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