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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 06:55 GMT 07:55 UK
Britain bans Gaza football team
Palestinian children play football in the West Bank town of Ramallah
There are few proper pitches for Palestinians to play football in Gaza
A Palestinian football team has been banned from playing in Britain, because officials apparently believe they will not return to Gaza.

The Gaza under-19s team had been invited to play British football clubs Chester City and Blackburn Rovers.

The team's visa applications were rejected after every member failed to meet entry criteria, said a spokesman for the British consulate in Jerusalem.

The consulate said it regretted being unable to support a worthy cause.

'Players depressed'

The players were told the visas were blocked because of the risk they would not return home to Gaza, says the BBC's Mike Sergeant in Jerusalem.

The team's manager told BBC News the players had expected to be welcomed in Britain, and were depressed about the decision.

Arranging football matches in Gaza is hard enough, says our correspondent.

There are few proper football pitches and Israeli forces bombed Gaza's main stadium last year.

Tour organiser Rod Cox, from Chester, said the ruling was unfair, as the players had overcome difficult circumstances to qualify for their national team.

"Here's a bunch of kids who've worked their entire life to be selected to be the 22 best players and to play for their national team," he said.

"What's the point of all that work if you're told: 'Yes, everybody else can go and compete in England but you can't.'"

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