The Palestinian Football Association is set to lobby FIFA to sanction Israel over incidents in which Palestinian soccer players were shot and arrested for issues not relating to soccer. Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub announced that FIFA had a responsibility to prevent Israel from being “the neighbourhood bully.”
Rajoub told Reuters in an interview his group’s intention to urge FIFA to act against Israel. Rajoub claimed two “disastrous events” triggered the demands: the arrest of one Palestinian player after returning from practice in Qatar and “the famous story that they shot and injured two athletes who had to go to Jordan for treatment for three months. Then they came back and arrested them.” Rajoub added that he believed “the Israelis never agree to anything without being pressured.” Rajoud has previously called for FIFA to expel the Israeli soccer team because of the nation’s tense relationship with Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Football Association is pleading with the Palestinians to keep soccer apolitical. Israeli FA spokesperson Michal Grundland warned that “mixing politics and sports is dangerous” and that Israel was working “in full cooperation and coordination with FIFA and UEFA to ensure the best possible sporting conditions for Palestinians.”
FIFA has invested time and effort into using soccer to facilitate dialogue between Israel and Palestine. The Football for Peace program helps children in troubled areas learn to play and use sports to improve their lives.
The international soccer group is facing myriad problems as the weeks pass and the Brazil World Cup approaches. Last week, FIFA warned the Iraqi Football Association that their long delays in establishing a vote for officials to run the organization may result in a suspension to play from FIFA. The national organization received a letter from FIFA warning that if elections were not held by May 31, “this matter will be referred to the relevant body to take appropriate measure against IFA, which may include immediate and indefinite suspension.”
Other mischief falling under FIFA purview in recent weeks is a racist incident involving a fan throwing a banana at AC Milan defender Kevin Constant, who is black. FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded to that incident on Twitter, where he said, “Racism, and games stopped/abandoned due to acts of hooliganism. Each Federation needs to act. Sanctions are available & HAVE to be applied.”
In Brazil itself, the preparations for the World Cup have raised eyebrows. Brazil is simultaneously preparing to host the Olympics in 2016– preparations that have been heralded as “the worst” by International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates. The World Cup preparations are faring little better, as reports indicate that building the stadium for the event has cost triple the original estimate– a full $900 million– and “allegedly fraudulent billing” is responsible.