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Palestinians call for Israeli ban as Gaza war spills into football

Damon Wake
18 May 2024, MVT 12:50
FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivers closing remarks during the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok on May 17, 2024. The 74th FIFA Congress is taking place in Bangkok with member associations voting on a range of issues including confirmation of the host nation or nations for the 2027 women's football World Cup. -- Photo: Manan Vatsyayana / AFP
Damon Wake
18 May 2024, MVT 12:50

The war in Gaza came to the fore at world football's biggest meeting on Friday as the Palestinian association called for Israel to be immediately suspended from FIFA.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino told the congress in Bangkok that the sport's global governing body will take independent legal advice to consider the Palestinian demand.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) and its backers had hoped there would be an immediate vote on a possible ban, which has the support of the Asian Football Confederation, of which it is a member.

Israel called the ban call "cynical".

But Infantino said: "FIFA will mandate as of now an independent legal expertise to assess the three requests made by the Palestinian football association and make sure that the status and regulations of FIFA are applied in the correct way.

"Due to the urgency of the situation, an extraordinary FIFA council will be convened and take place before July 20 of this year to review the results of the assessment and take the decisions that are appropriate."

PFA head Jibril Rajoub minutes earlier took the stage in the Thai capital to demand Israel's "immediate" suspension.

He said the Israeli FA (IFA) had broken FIFA rules, saying: "FIFA cannot afford to remain indifferent to these violations or to the ongoing genocide in Palestine."

Rajoub's demand came after the PFA said in March it would bring the matter to the congress.

The PFA has voiced its unhappiness with some specific incidents, including a case in which Israeli media footage showed scores of stripped Palestinians, including children, detained in Gaza City's Yarmouk stadium in December 2023.

The PFA in March also called on FIFA to address "the inclusion of football teams located in the territory of another association, namely Palestine, in its national association".

At least five football clubs based in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are members of the Israeli Football Association.

The settlements are illegal under international law.

The representative of Jordan stood up to back the Palestinian demand and call for an immediate vote by the congress, a call rejected by Infantino, who said it must be handled by FIFA's council -- its regular decision-making body.

When it was the turn of the Israeli federation chief to take to the stage to speak, the Iranian and Iraqi delegates walked out of the hall.

IFA chief Shino Moshe Zuares said the Palestinian call for a ban was "cynical".

"Once again we are facing a cynical, political and hostile attempt by the Palestinian association to harm Israeli football," he said.

"IFA never violated a rule set by FIFA or UEFA and will never do so in the future."

Israel is part of UEFA, Europe's footballing body.

The war in Gaza broke out after the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel's military retaliation has killed at least 35,233 people, mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

FIFA has taken action against member nations over the actions of their governments before, banning Russian teams from international competition following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

UEFA banned Russian clubs from its tournaments.

© Agence France-Presse

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