Human rights group urges FIFA to nix Israel’s West Bank soccer games

Josefin Dolsten

Israel national football team players training in Tel Aviv on Sept. 4, 2013. (Flash90)

Israel national football team players training in Tel Aviv on Sept. 4, 2013. (Flash90)

(JTA) — A human rights group called on FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, to quit sponsoring matches in the West Bank held by Israel’s soccer association.

“By holding games on stolen land, FIFA is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine country director for Human Rights Watch. “FIFA should step up now to give settlement clubs a red card and insist the Israel Football Association play by the rules.”

The group said Monday that it had conducted an investigation of the Israel Football Association, a FIFA member, and found that the group holds games in West Bank settlements, “on land unlawfully taken from Palestinians.”

Also, the Palestinian Football Association has accused its Israeli counterpart of violating FIFA rules, by holding games without permission on the territory of another member group, and a FIFA committee is set to submit recommendations on the issue by Oct. 13, according to the statement.


Human Rights Watch said a legal adviser for the Israel Football Association dismissed the relevance of their claims.

“[T]he purpose of the IFA is to benefit football. That is its sole concern. Political issues are not part of our ‘playing field,’” Efraim Barak told the group, according to the statement.

FIFA Human Rights Manager Andreas Graf he did not have time to respond to the investigation before its publication, but told Human Rights Watch that he would “endeavor to reply at a later date,” the statement said.

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