Palestinian football chiefs hit out at FIFA over Israel decision

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino revealed the decision on Friday. (AP)
Updated 29 October 2017

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.”

Saudi Arabia celebrates 20th year of first Olympic medal win

Updated 28 September 2020

Saudi Arabia celebrates 20th year of first Olympic medal win

  • Hadi Souan scooped silver in Sydney at 29; athlete says success was for whole nation

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first Olympic medal win 20 years ago inspired a generation of athletes and was a catalyst for the development of sport, according to the president of the Kingdom’s Olympic committee.

Hadi Souan won silver in the 400m hurdles at the Sydney Games in 2000.

The accomplishment was one of many in a long and successful journey for the athlete, who became a board member of the Saudi Arabian Athletics Federation (SAAF), the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) Assembly, a member of the Olympic Council of Asia Athlete Commission, sports and events manager at Qiddiya Investment Company, a member of the Saudi Sports Arbitration Center, and a member of the SAOC’s International Relations Committee.

“Today we celebrate Souan’s achievement, which inspired a generation of Saudi athletes and was a catalyst for the development of sport in the Kingdom,” said the SAOC’s president, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal. “It gives me great pleasure to see sport thriving in Saudi Arabia. We are committed to ensuring that this trend continues and that the Kingdom’s next generation enjoys the benefits of participating in sport, both in Saudi Arabia and at major global sporting events.”

Souan started out as a footballer but took up athletics in PE class, winning second place in a school championship. He qualified to compete at the Kingdom level and went on to become a national team member in less than a year.

He started with the high jump, then decathlon and finally found himself taking on the 400m hurdles.

He trained under Egyptian coach Mohammed Thu Alfaqqar from 1991, under the Americans until 1994, and under 1968 Olympic gold medalist Lee Evans. But the best place Souan remembers training at was UCLA.

“It is a sport and artistic society indeed,” he said. “We spoke, ate, slept, and even relaxed for sport. These little things and the different sleeping habits here and there made me suffer a bit when I came back from the States, but we got used to it and I knew it made a difference in my lifestyle and mentality-wise.”

Souan also trained the European way in Paris under a Russian coach and France’s Amadou Dia Ba. “Hence I started to learn the difference between European and American schools,” he added. The US schools concentrated on endurance, while the French focused on speed.

He was grateful for the exposure to different cultures while training abroad with elite athletes, especially at a time when there was limited social awareness about the importance of sport.

“When I started training with US 400m hurdler Kevin Young, who clocked an Olympic record of 46.78 seconds at the 1992 Barcelona Games and which remains unbeaten until now, I felt that I could do what he is doing. I only need to be determined, disciplined, and committed and everything from there started to become imaginable. I started to see myself winning and when the time came and toward the end of the race I knew I was getting there but I wasn’t first. First place went to American Angelo Taylor who won in 47.50 seconds, while I did 47.53.”

He remembers the winning moment and never expected how the country would react to his achievement. It was overwhelming. 

He modestly said it was not his success alone, that it was a success for the whole nation and all of his team headed by the former SAAF president Prince Nawaf bin Mohammed, agent Emanuel Hudson, and coach John Smith. They all worked hard to create the right environment for him to deliver the medals.

“We were welcomed by the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, by the former president of General Presidency of Youth Welfare Prince Sultan bin Fahd, and everyone was happy and proud of what we did. I knew then that what I was fortunate to do was not simple at all and, luckily, was appreciated. I believe everyone started to look up for Saudis in athletics and watch out for similar future talents.”

The beauty of sport, he added, was its spirit and the values that were learned and developed through years of training, competing, winning and losing. 

“Although Taylor won first place we all, as a sports community, remain friends and also competed afterwards in several matches where he again took first place and I came second again. He came from a distance running race which allowed him to master his skills at the end of the 400m hurdles events, his approach was and still is just amazing.”

Souan won the silver medal aged 29 at his second Olympic appearance, in what he felt was perfect timing as he might not have been as successful at subsequent Games.

“Usually when you get to taste that level of achievement on a global scale you want more, but I knew that it was time to give back now and help my teammate and younger generations taste it at an early age.”

That’s how I got involved in the athletics federation and the Sports Ministry afterwards.”

He said that it did not matter how someone was built, as long as they had the willpower to work on their body and skills in order to become the best they could be in the sport that they liked. He added that parents had greater awareness, as did athletes, and wished that more Saudis could do what he could not.

Although Souan retired as an athlete at the age of 34, after competing in the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar, he was and still is a role model who keeps giving back to his country. Because of his passion for sports he was a physical education teacher and then supervisor at the Ministry of Education. 

“I always felt responsible to keep my record clean because I’ve seen how parents and students used to look up to me so, as an Olympian, I wanted to give a good example.”

In addition to the Olympic silver medal he won, with an Asian record of 47.53 seconds, Souan counts the 2001 Goodwill Games hurdles silver from Brisbane as his most prized possession. 

All told Souan has won 40 gold medals including one from the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.