An Israeli team arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday to compete in the video game version of the FIFA World Cup in Riyadh, Israeli media reported.
The team, which includes the players, their trainer and their deputy manager, entered Saudi Arabia via the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic ties, however, speculation has risen in recent years that the two countries may soon normalise relations.
Team manager Zvika Kosman told Israel’s Kan that he liaised with FIFA to secure his team’s entry to the kingdom, adding that Saudi authorities issued a letter stating that all participants would be allowed in.
Kosman said that the team would not hide their nationality at the competition but would avoid displays of it in public.
This is the first time Saudi Arabia will host the FIFAe World Cup, an esports tournament held by FIFA and its presenting partner EA Sports, which will take place from July 16-19.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have spoken in favour of establishing ties with Riyadh, however, the Saudis have publicly remained reticent.
Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said after a meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that normalisation with Israel would have “limited benefits”.
“We believe that normalisation [with Israel] is in the interest of the region, that it would bring significant benefits to all,” he told reporters in Washington.
“Without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people, without addressing that challenge, any normalisation will have limited benefits,” the minister said.
The US Biden administration has made normalisation between Arab states and Israel a priority, with analysts saying that the incumbent president wants to secure a deal before the 2024 presidential elections. (NewArab)