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FIFA Congress to discuss banning Israel from international football

April 18, 2024 at 2:24 pm

View of the FIFA logo on a flag during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Canada and Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on December 01, 2022 in Doha, Qatar [Catherine Ivill/Getty Images]

The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has submitted a request to the sport’s world governing body, FIFA, for Israel to be banned from international football competitions due to the ongoing killing of Palestinians in Gaza. The motion, which is expected to be discussed at the FIFA Congress 2024 in Thailand next month, cites violations of international law committed by Israel in Palestine, particularly in Gaza, and refers to FIFA’s statutory commitments to human rights and anti-discrimination.

The PFA’s proposal also references the ongoing military assault on Gaza and the destruction of all football infrastructure in the besieged enclave, including the historic Yarmouk Stadium. Hundreds of Palestinians went to the stadium to seek safety from Israeli bombing. On 24 December last year, though, the Israeli army took control of the stadium, blindfolded its Palestinian captives, including children, and forced them to strip to their underwear.

The motion also mentions the killing of individual footballers and the silence of the Israeli Football Association about the brutal offensive on Gaza where 34,000 have been killed, the majority of whom were women and children.

The PFA’s proposal has garnered support from the football associations of Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Yemen. The association believes that there is a strong possibility that some fellow national football associations will refuse to play against Israel.

This is not the first time that the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been brought to FIFA’s attention. From 2013 to 2017, the issue was placed repeatedly on the FIFA agenda, including at the body’s congresses, without significant progress being made. In 2015 and 2017, PFA head Jibril Rajoub urged FIFA to sanction Israel for including teams that played their matched in the occupied West Bank in its national leagues.

Several Palestinian football figures have been targeted by Israeli forces. According to reports from the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports, on 17 May 2021, Israeli air strikes killed Muath Al-Zaanin, a promising 18-year-old footballer who played for the Gaza Sports Club. On 13 January, 2009, footballer Ayman AlKurd, who played for the Palestine national team, was killed in an air strike at his home in Gaza City during Israel’s so-called “Operation Cast Lead” against the Palestinians in the enclave.

The PFA’s request for sanctions against Israel, coupled with the loss of life and destruction of football infrastructure, has once again brought Israel’s brutal occupation to the forefront of the international football community. The upcoming FIFA Congress in Thailand will provide a platform for the PFA and supporting football associations to present their case and call for action against Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and FIFA Statutes.

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