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No report on settlement football teams by FIFA

Image of FIFA's headquarters [REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann]
Image of FIFA's headquarters [REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann]

Tokyo Sexwale, chair of FIFA’s Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, has missed yet another deadline to submit his report to FIFA’s leadership on the matter of Israel’s football clubs located in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a rights group has reported.

FIFA President Infantino announced to assembled journalists on 10 January that Sexwale had been tasked by the FIFA Council with arranging a “final meeting” with Israel and Palestine’s football associations in an effort to produce an elusive agreement on the fate of the six clubs in question. Following that meeting Sexwale was to present his “final report” within a month.

But Red Card Israeli Racism (RCIR) said that: “So far from producing his report in time for today’s deadline, Mr Sexwale has not yet met with the two associations’ representatives and is unlikely to do so before late March.”

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This latest setback follows a series of frustrating delays and no-shows that have surrounded FIFA’s efforts to resolve the issue of the settlement clubs.

Last May, FIFA Congress set a deadline of October for the Monitoring Committee to produce a solution to the issue.

FIFA President Infantino promised to visit Israel and Palestine in order to aid negotiation efforts, but to date he has not done so and in October, Sexwale told the FIFA Council that he had not met with the two associations and could not yet present his recommendations on the matter – the matter was postponed until January

In January the matter was relegated to “Any Other Business” by the FIFA Council. Sexwale produced an “oral report” to council members and was asked to meet once more with the two associations and report back within a month.

RCIR Coordinator Geoff Lee commented today that: “This shabby record is totally unacceptable and indicates a lack of engagement by FIFA’s new leadership. The Palestinian Football Association has bent over backwards to cooperate with FIFA’s negotiating process and deserves better treatment.”

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RCIR believes that FIFA should impose its own solution in respect of the settlement clubs. “The two sides to this dispute will not agree,” said Lee, “but this is an issue which calls for a swift resolution in accordance with international human rights law. The Israel Football Association cannot be allowed to carry on supporting clubs based on stolen Palestinian land.”

RCIR has submitted a letter of complaint to Infantino.

“Infantino told FIFA Congress ‘his engagement was there’ on this issue,” says Lee, “but we have seen no evidence to bear this out. It’s high time he showed some genuine leadership and stopped kicking Palestine into the long grass.”

The Palestinian Football Association has been demanding since 2015 that its Israeli counterpart should stop including clubs located in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in its leagues and competitions. The IFA has refused to do so.

Commentators including Human Rights Watch have pointed out that the IFA’s support for the relevant clubs – and FIFA’s tolerance of this – is a breach of international law.

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