Israel could be banned from world soccer

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There has always been a belief in world soccer that what Fifa President Sepp Blatter wants, Sepp Blatter gets.
by JACK MILNER AND JTA | May 20, 2015

However, he claims to be facing his toughest task to date at this year’s annual congress of soccer's governing body on May 29, when the Palestinian Authority will attempt to put through a vote to have Israel expelled from Fifa.

Fifa's 209-member countries will vote on a PA motion calling for the suspension on claims that Israel is hindering Palestinian soccer and breaking international law. The PA would need three quarters of the votes for its motion to pass.


Israel’s national soccer team training in Tel Aviv

Israel's Foreign Ministry has been lobbying governments to oppose the motion on the grounds that it’s a political dispute unrelated to soccer.

Soccer is Israel’s most popular sport, and though Israel qualified for a World Cup tournament only once, in 1970, Israeli soccer teams frequently travel abroad for matches.

Blatter, who recently turned 79, will be seeking re-election as president of Fifa at the congress, but this “crisis” could blot his copy book. Blatter, who is a master at playing both sides, has been relatively supportive of Israel, but his main concern is that a dangerous precedent could be set if the PA goes ahead and asks for a vote to suspend Israel.

Blatter admits the dispute is "the biggest challenge" facing him as he comes to the end of his current mandate, and added that Israel had not broken any Fifa statutes.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) has accused Israel of hampering their activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions and the Israeli FA has argued that it has no control over security forces.

Palestinian sports officials have long been railing against Israeli restrictions on their teams. In 2012, the head of the Palestinian Olympic delegation voiced similar complaints to JTA about freedom of movement. Two years ago, Blatter convened a meeting of the heads of the Israeli and Palestinian soccer associations and created a task force to resolve the issue.

The PA has been a member of Fifa since 1998. It also opposes the participation in the Israeli league of five clubs located in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The PFA claims that Israeli settlements’ soccer teams should not be allowed to play in Israel’s league, saying they are located in Palestinian territory.

The Palestinians are also basing their request for Israel's expulsion on the "racism" against Arabs at some Israeli clubs.

Israel Football Association (IFA) chief Rotem Kamer acknowledged a problem existed but said it was not unique to Israel. He said the authorities had taken harsh steps against Beitar Jerusalem, which has notoriously ultra-nationalist fans.

"Our national teams are combined with Arabs and Jews, we have joint leagues, joint clubs," he said.

Another PA grievance was the charge of tax on the importation of sporting equipment. 

Blatter confirmed he would travel to the region again next week and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Blatter said that if the Palestinian Authority proposal was approved, other nations could use football to air political grievances. "This could open the doors; where would we go? We want to be in sport and not in politics, we could set a very dangerous precedent," he told reporters at the Fifa headquarters.

But Blatter said he was optimistic of finding a last-ditch compromise. "I'm hopeful and positive that, at the end of the day, there might be a solution before the congress.

"I want to try and find a solution to avoid us going to a vote in a Fifa congress and speak about the dismissal or suspension of a federation; this is not the sporting spirit."

He added: "Palestine is expecting from the government of Israel a gesture, especially when it comes to the control of the circulation of persons in the checkpoints and specifically when foreign teams come in."

A suspension would mean Israel, who is affiliated to Uefa, the European football body, could no longer compete in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and its clubs would be barred from European competition.

"I wouldn't like to go into a vote to say that one association shall be suspended, if there is nothing against the statutes of Fifa and we have to make clear there is nothing (by Israel) against the statutes of Fifa.

"When Fifa stops football, then everyone is unhappy. To suspend a federation, you must make an investigation, you cannot just say I want to,” said Blatter. "This is my number one challenge, actually, from now until the election. It's a very delicate problem."

IFA chief Kamer said a Palestinian attempt to oust it from Fifa was "cynical" and contrary to the spirit of sport. He argued that the Palestinian demand had "nothing to do with sports", adding: "We see it as a clear mix of politics and football, something which should not find a place in the Fifa congress."



  1. 4 nat cheiman 20 May
    So nu????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. 3 David 21 May
    A travesty in the offing -- but no surprise as the Palestinians will stop at nothing
  3. 2 Denis Solomons 25 May
    Israel will not be expelled ! If anything the Palestinians will be expelled .
    Long live Jewish footballers !
  4. 1 Josh 26 May
    See now this irritates me. KEEP POLITICS OUT OF SPORT. We who happen to enjoy football do not feel like Political whoopsies sticking their spoons into our soup!


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