Tuesday 19 September 2017

Palestine FA will not drop FIFA request to suspend Israel

Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub walks with anti-apartheid activist Tokyo Sexwale (R) past Israel's controversial barrier Credit: Mohamad Torokman
Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub walks with anti-apartheid activist Tokyo Sexwale (R) past Israel's controversial barrier Credit: Mohamad Torokman

Brian Homewood

The Palestine FA has refused to not drop its proposal for a vote at the FIFA Congress to suspend Israel from international football.

Its president Jibril Rajoub said he would push ahead with the request despite ongoing dialogue between his Israeli counterpart Ofer Eini and FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

On Sunday, the trio met at the headquarters of soccer's governing body in the latest attempt to end the impasse between the two sides.

The PFA accuses Israel of hampering its activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes.

On Thursday, Mr Rajoub reinforced his call for Israel to be suspended from FIFA saying the Israeli Football Association was part of an "apartheid, racist government" that was damaging Palestinian soccer.

"Both member associations agreed to pursue the dialogue," FIFA said in a statement, adding that Mr Blatter would travel to Israel and Palestine to meet their respective Heads of State.

For the Palestinian proposal to pass, it would need the approval of 75 pc of FIFA's 209 member associations at the annual congress in Zurich on May 29.

The PFA has also cited issues surrounding the curbs Israel places on the import into the Palestinian territories of sports equipment and visits by foreign teams and individuals.

FIFA has been trying to find a solution to the Palestinian complaints for more than two years.

"The proposal (to suspend Israel) will remain on the agenda," Mr Rajoub said.

"A dialogue is not a solution, the solution is that the Israelis have to come and recognise our rights to develop the game according to the statutes of FIFA."

"We told the Israeli FA that they have enough time to come to the Congress with a proposal to end our suffering. We recognise their association and the right of their footballers to enjoy the game and we want to enjoy the same rights."

Adding: "I don't wish the suffering of the Palestine footballers on anybody, including Israel. But I wish they would join me and fight against discrimination."

If FIFA were to suspend Israel, it would bar all its teams and clubs from competing in international competitions such as the Champions League and Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Israel is a member of UEFA and Palestine is part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

"Sepp Blatter was very determined and very unequivocal, in that he hopes this matter will not be on the agenda," Mr Eini told Israel's Army radio.

"I have to say that with this meeting, too, I left more optimistic," he added.

"We regard this entire initiative with full seriousness, because if (it) passes, it would be a disaster for Israeli football and perhaps beyond that."

FIFA President Sepp Blatter Credit: Hamad I Mohammed
FIFA President Sepp Blatter Credit: Hamad I Mohammed

Reuters

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