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Thursday 26th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

Palestinian footballers have been asked to work as informers

AHEAD of tomorrow’s Fifa council meeting, Red Card Israeli Racism (RCIR) has protested against a number of instances of continuing Israeli repression of Palestinian football.

The campaigning group has written to Fifa’s ruling body regarding an attempt by Israel’s security services to recruit Palestinian footballers as informers, as well as regarding the continuing obstruction of footballers’ travel and of the import of vital sports equipment into Palestine.

The claims centre around the annual Palestine Cup Final, in which the top Gaza and West Bank teams play each other over two legs.

After many years during which Israel banned the event outright, the Cup Final resumed in 2015. However since then, Israel has cause repeated disruptions to the event by restricting teams’ travel in and out of Gaza.

This summer, 10-squad members of Gazan champions Shabab Rafah were denied permission to travel for the second leg of the Cup Final, after perennial West Bank champions Ahli Al-Khalil had been forced to travel to Gaza with a similarly threadbare squad.

RCIR says a source informed it that Israel’s security services had attempted to recruit more than one player as an informer during travel between Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel has also impounded a shipment of Limonta Sport artificial turf since March, which puts construction of a number of artificial pitches in Palestine at risk.

“Fifa has negotiated paper improvements to the right of movement of players and equipment,” said RCIR co-ordinator Geoff Lee.

“But the reality is that Israel still obstructs Palestinian football, as it does every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories.

“Even the Palestine Cup Final — the highlight of the footballing calendar — is regularly impeded by the occupier, and the attempt to recruit informers is a disgraceful abuse of power. At the same time Israel blocks the development of sports facilities at every turn.”

RCIR’s latest revelations come as the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) waits to hear the result of its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the irregular chairing of the May 11 Fifa congress.

At the congress, Fifa president Gianni Infantino refused to allow a vote on a Palestinian motion calling for the imposition of sanctions on the Israel Football Association (IFA).

The motion referenced Israeli abuses including the participation of clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements within the IFA’s leagues and competitions — a practice which has been widely condemned as a breach of both international law and Fifa’s own statutes.

The CAS is expected to rule on the case on January 26. Should it find in the PFA’s favour, Fifa may be forced to call an extraordinary congress so as to hold a vote on the contested motion.

“President Infantino — with the backing of Fifa Council — has tried to tie up the issue of Israel’s illegal settlement clubs in endless discussions,” said Lee.

“To do so he has ridden roughshod over the PFA’s rights as a Fifa member. We are confident that the CAS will uphold those rights, and that the IFA will eventually face

international sanctions for its collusion in the war on Palestinian sport.”