Abbas congratulates Chile’s ‘Palestino’ soccer team

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated Chilean soccer club “Palestino” for qualifying for the regional South American Cup.

“On behalf of all Palestinians worldwide, I want to thank you for this joy that you gave us in this  special moment when we are in a diplomatic struggle to finally achieving freedom, justice and peace like other peoples in the world” wrote Abbas in a letter that the club received on Monday.

The Palestinian community in Chile is believed to be the largest outside of the Middle East. At least 300,000 Chileans are of Palestinian descent, according to reports.

The club from Chile secured a place in the “Libertadores de America” Cup after beating Wonderes 6-1 last Sunday and will face in 2015 the Uruguayan team Nacional in his first match of the regional tournament.

“You have raised our colors and have given us a voice in difficult times. We identify Palestino as our second national team for the Palestinian people. The club Palestino is a portion of Palestine in Chile, and you are players and also ambassadors of our colors throughout South America” added Abbas.

The Palestino team ignited a controversy earlier this year when it used the entire map of Israel to represent Palestine on the back of its jerseys. Local and international Jewish leaders protested the political nature of the uniforms to FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. The club left the map on its uniforms despite receiving a fine for it.

The winner of Libertadores Cup will participate in the Soccer Club World Cup, with winners of other regional tournaments like  European Champions’ Cup.