Leave us to play in peace, Israel – we don’t need your “own goals”.

Posted: November 30, 2014 in Liberation Footbology

I can’t think of a precedent for any neighbouring country having openly raided the offices of an occupied country’s Football Association, though I’m sure that Nazi or Stalinist armies would have readily done so during the turmoil of the mid-twentieth century (had they not just been able to quietly replace the incumbent executives with their own appointees, where they deemed it necessary).

Israel has as yet supplied no explanation for its forces raiding the Palestinian FA’s offices in Ramallah on Monday 24th November, when three military Israeli patrols raided the HQ, blocked the employees from going about their business and thoroughly inspected the offices without giving any information about the reasons behind their acts.

Palestinian Football Federation president Jibril Rajoub said that “What happened last week had no precedents in the history of sport … we want to represent the values of the game of football rather than the violence of the guns and rifles. I do believe that this disgraceful act requires a position from the family of football and I think it is the time to take sanctions.”

This was an incursion by Israeli forces into Area “A” of the West Bank, over which the Palestinian National Authority(PNA) has jurisdiction for both civil affairs and security. “Area A” includes most large Palestinian towns – including Ramallah where the PFA HQ is situated, so the Israeli action once again showed a flagrant disregard for the Oslo Accords.

According to a Ma’an News Agency report, when PFA Director of International Affairs Susan Shalabi asked an Israeli officer the reason for the raid, he merely responded that it was “not a raid”. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=742363

Before Israeli forces left the place they tried to prevent journalists from taking pictures.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa condemned the “unjustified aggression” on one of the Federation’s affiliates, calling it “unacceptable”.

It is not known whether Israel’s actions are a precursor to attempts to further hinder the freedom of movement of Palestinian international players in the run-up to their first major international tournament, the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, but the occupying forces have long tried to disrupt travel and preparations for Palestinian players, as they do for all the citizens of the occupied territories. Rajoub naturally expressed his fears that this may turn out to be the case, calling on FIFA to put pressure on the Israeli authorities to ensure that the players are allowed to travel for preparation and for the tournament itself.

As well as qualifying for AFC Asian Cup for the first time in its history, the Palestinian national side was also awarded the distinction of being voted “Best National Team in Asia” for the year 2014.

Condemnation by the Asian Federation is natural of course, but will UEFA now join them in condemning this action by the government of a one of its own favourite members? We won’t hold our breath.


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