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UAE club becomes first Arab team to sign Israel player

September 29, 2020 at 2:28 pm

Israeli player Diaa Sabia was signed by Dubai’s Al-Nasr. The first Israeli to be signed by an Arab team [@Ostrov_A/Twitter]

Israeli footballer Diaa Sabia has become the first player to sign for an Arab club, less than two weeks after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Zionist state normalised relations.

The 27-year-old attacking midfielder was purchased from China’s Guangzhou in a two-year contract with Dubai’s Al-Nasr.

“Al-Nasr has completed the procedures with Diaa Sabai … in a contract that extends for two seasons after he successfully passed medical examinations this morning,” the club said in a statement.

Sabia, who is of Palestinian origin and comes from a Muslim-Arab family, was born in the Arab town Majd Al-Krum in northern Israel. The area was captured by Jewish paramilitary groups in 1948. Many of its residents were forced to flee to the nearby Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, which in 1982 became the scene of one of the worst massacres of Palestinians, as Israeli forces blocked their exit.

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Sabia rose through the ranks of a youth club before moving to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2012. He moved to the Chinese super league in 2019.

Sabia’s move comes as the UAE, of which Dubai is a member, signed a controversial US-brokered accord to normalise ties with Israel. Abu Dhabi justified the move saying that it had managed to postpone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to illegally annex a further 30 per cent of occupied Palestinian territory.

The Israelis say no such assurance had been given while Palestinians insist that the UAE had rewarded Netanyahu for land-theft that was already illegal under international law.