Palestinian football chiefs hit out at FIFA over Israel decision

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino revealed the decision on Friday. (AP)
Updated 29 October 2017
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Palestinian football chiefs hit out at FIFA over Israel decision

AMMAN: Palestinian sports officials have claimed they were deceived by FIFA and that the organization’s decision not to sanction Israel for having teams present in the Occupied West Bank was the result of a power struggle within the governing body.
On Friday FIFA revealed it would not reprimand Israel, instead de facto legitimizing Israeli action in the occupied territories.
Susan Shalabi, vice president of the Palestinian Football Association, told Arab News that FIFA’s decision to do nothing regarding the Palestinian complaint was “a violation of both Swiss law and international law.”
The five Israeli football clubs located in the occupied territories violate FIFA laws that stipulate clubs are not allowed to play in another country’s territory without the latter’s permission.
The UN informed FIFA that the Israeli clubs were located in occupied Palestinian territories — UN Security Council Resolution 2334, passed in December 2016, also reiterated that the settlements are illegal according to international law and all countries are forbidden from legitimizing them.  
The FIFA decision came in response to three recommendations made by South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, the chairman of the Monitoring Committee set up by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in May 2015 as a compromise in return for Palestine withdrawing its request to eject Israel from FIFA.
A FIFA source told Arab News that Palestinians are the victim of an internal power struggle within football’s governing body.
“Ever since the departure of Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s presidency has been weak and easily pressed from one continent to another,” the person said.
The source added that there are concerns that Sexwale is likely to receive a high position within a newly established FIFA New Projects development unit.
South African activists belonging to various civil society and faith-based organizations concerned with Palestine issued a call on Friday demanding that Sexwale resign from the international football governing body, accusing him of “delaying justice.”
“FIFA has delayed in taking action against the Israel Football Association and its violation of FIFA statutes. Instead of acting, FIFA has continuously delayed and Sexwale is part of this delaying process,” a statement by the National Coalition 4 Palestine said.
Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Federation, is holding a press conference today to respond to the FIFA decision and outline the legal steps that Palestine will consider. FIFA members have 21 days to initiate a complaint against any of the decisions by the FIFA council.
James M. Dorsey, senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Arab News that FIFA’s assertion that it is not going to take a political stand was pure fantasy.
“Whatever FIFA asserts, a decision in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was going to be political. Having said that, FIFA’s decision not to take a stand on clubs of Israeli settlements on occupied territory playing in Israeli leagues constituted a political decision by the organization not to apply its own rules,” he said.
Dorsey added: “It is those kinds of onerous decisions that undermine FIFA’s credibility as a governing body that adheres to good governance.”


Belief running high for Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons

Updated 11 min 58 sec ago
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Belief running high for Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons

  • Where others have picked over-aged players, Saudi Arabia, in contrast, have brought their U-21 team
  • Al-Shehri arrived at the Games playing down the importance of results and focusing on performances

JAKARTA: Saudi Arabia’s football team are doing things differently at the Asian Games this month. The three-week tournament is open to players aged under-23, with countries having the option to select three over-age players. The result is hosts Indonesia have selected a 37-year-old naturalized Brazilian and South Korea, whose players can avoid mandatory military service if they win gold, have called upon Heung-min Son, the Tottenham Hotspur forward.
Saudi Arabia, in contrast, have brought their Under-21 team.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri, who has been in charge of the side for three years, does not shy from the fact his Young Falcons are here primarily to gain experience and develop ahead of a crucial U23 Asian Championships, which offers direct qualification to the Olympic Games.

Yet he is also aware the deeper his side go this month, the more it will ultimately benefit the Kingdom’s Tokyo 2020 objective.
“We are playing here with an Under-21 team in a tournament that is for Under-23s,” he said. “But I believe in these players. I worked with them at the Under-20 World Cup in 2017 in Korea and this team is the future of Saudi Arabia. I do not doubt that, and the Federation is in agreement.
“The players need more experience, more games and strong tournaments, but we all believe in them and our work will continue on this path. This is the squad that we want to qualify for Tokyo.”
Al-Shehri arrived at the Games playing down the importance of results and focusing on performances, but after two games in Jakarta, his team sit joint-top of Group F alongside Iran, with whom they drew 0-0 in their opening game. A comfortable 3-0 victory over Myanmar on Friday means progress to the knock-out stages is all but secure, with today’s match against North Korea offering an opportunity to secure an easier Round of 16 draw.
Finalists in 2014, North Korea were expected to prove the most difficult opponent of the group stage, yet a draw with Myanmar and a 3-0 humbling by Iran have altered expectations for both sides. Al-Shehri, who will be without key playmaker Ayman Al-Khulaif today through suspension, is now expected to make several changes to avoid fatigue in what will be the Young Falcons’ third game in five days.
“I have 20 players and trust them all,” Al-Shehri told Arab News. “I am confident we can play a good game against North Korea because we have players hungry and waiting to take their chance. Everybody is ready to play and be involved. Whether we win or lose… all we want is to play games. We need to play more games to improve and the further in the tournament we go, the more games we play, so if we get to the final it’s very good for us regardless. Every single game we play between now and the Tokyo qualifiers is very important for us.”
Al-Khulaif, 21, has been instrumental in his side’s results so far, proving a constant outlet on the right of midfield and drawing nine fouls, including two penalties. The Al-Ahli playmaker made his Pro League debut last season, coming on as a 90th minute substitute for Taiser Al-Jassem against Ohod, and will hope this tournament can help him catch the eye of new Al-Ahli boss Pablo Guede.
Forced to sit out today’s match, he is looking to the positives. “I am sad to miss the next game, but I trust fully in my teammates to get a good result and it gives me a chance to rest and, inshallah, prepare better for the knock-out stages.”