JERUSALEM – An Israel-Spain World Cup qualifying match will be played in the northern Spanish city of Gijon, prompting outrage among Israeli officials because of the city’s blanket boycott of Israel.
After extreme left and socialist parties initiated the boycott in January 2016, pro-Israel groups sent an appeal to the Administrative Court, Ynet news reported. The judge, however, threw the case out of court on the grounds that the boycott was merely a political statement with no identifiable practical implications.
“It makes us sick that the team has to come and play in a place that is boycotting the State of Israel, even if it is just a declaration,” unnamed government officials told Ynet. “It is unclear to us why out of all places, Spain chose the hold the game in this city.”
Officials also warned that protests may break out around the city when Israel’s national football team arrives ahead of the March 24 game.
The Mayor of Gijon, Carmen Moriyón, opposed the boycott but failed to nix it. However, she stated that even though the decision was approved by the city council, she would not be implementing it.
The Israel Football Association maintained a policy of neutrality on the issue:
“We have no information or explanation as to why Spain chose to hold the match in Gijon. They do not need our approval, of course. The relations between the associations are excellent. We play wherever is permitted, we don’t mix sports with anything else,” the IFA said.