A group of Middle Eastern soccer associations has reportedly demanded that FIFA bar Israeli teams from competition
Football federations from a dozen Middle Eastern countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, have written to global governing body FIFA to demand that Israel be banned over its offensive in Gaza, Sky News reported on Thursday.
In a letter obtained by the British news outlet, the West Asian Football Federation, led by Prince Ali bin Al Hussein – half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II – urged FIFA and member associations such as European governing body UEFA to form “a united front in isolating the Israeli Football Association from all football-related activities until these acts of aggression cease.”
It further called on the global governing body to take a “decisive stand against the atrocities committed in Palestine and the war crimes in Gaza by condemning the killing of innocent civilians including players, coaches, referees, and officials, [and] the destruction of the football infrastructure.”
The Israeli Football Association responded by calling the letter “cynical and shameless,” and urged football authorities to reject calls to ban its teams from international tournaments. “I am trusting FIFA not to involve politics in football,” Israeli FA CEO Niv Goldstein told Sky News.
“We are against involving politicians in football and being involved in political matters in the sport in general,” he added, stating that he is “looking forward to world peace.”
Meanwhile, UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis told the outlet there are currently no discussions on excluding Israeli teams from European competitions. He also dismissed accusations of taking a special approach to Israel, given that UEFA has suspended all Russian teams over the Ukraine conflict.
“They are two completely different situations between the two countries,” he claimed.
While FIFA has yet to officially respond to the letter, the organization has also faced accusations of making a politically driven decision by banning Russian teams after the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in 2022.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict flared up in October after Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on Israeli territories that left 1,200 people dead and saw more 200 others taken hostage. The Israel Defense Forces responded by launching a siege on the Palestinian enclave and vowing to eliminate all Hamas militants in the region. Gaza health officials have estimated that over 27,000 Palestinians have so far been killed in the Israeli response.
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