PA tries to block soccer tournament in Israel
Palestinian Football Association presses UEFA to stop Israel hosting 2013 European U-21 Championship over jailed player.
Germany and Israel soccer match Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub urged UEFA to remove
Israel as the host of the 2013 European Under-21 Championship in the latest
effort to pressure the Israel Football Association following the jailing of
Palestinian national team players.
In a letter to UEFA President Michel
Platini, Rajoub wrote that Israel’s government is violating FIFA regulations,
with Palestinian national team player Mahmoud Sarsak approaching a fourth month
on a hunger strike after being held in administrative detention since
Sarsak, 25, of the Gaza Strip, was arrested by the IDF when he
arrived at the Erez border crossing on his way to the West Bank.
your excellency, to not give Israel the honor to host the next UEFA Under-21
Championship,” Rajoub wrote. “We are deeply concerned about the situation of our
“For athletes in Palestine, there is no real freedom of
movement, and the risks of being detained or even killed are always looming
before their eyes,” he added in his letter that also claimed two other players,
Omar Rweis and Mohammad Nimer, are being held in administrative
Sarsak continues to refuse food despite the recent agreement
between Israel and the inmates to end the hunger strike in Israeli
Under the terms of last month’s Egyptian-brokered agreement,
Israel said it would ease restrictions imposed on security prisoners and end
solitary confinement, but Sarsak, who is being treated at the Ramle Prison
hospital, has said he is determined to continue with his hunger strike until he
Earlier this week, FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote to IFA
chairman Avi Luzon asking him to draw the attention of Israeli authorities to
“FIFA President Joseph Blatter expressed grave concern and
worry about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players,” a FIFA
“The reports FIFA received state that, in apparent
violation of their integrity and human rights and without the apparent right of
a trial, several Palestine football players have allegedly been illegally
detained by Israeli authorities.
“In particular, the mentioned reports
refer to the Palestine player Mahmoud Sarsak, whose health is in a very delicate
state due to the fact that he has been undergoing a hunger strike for
approximately 90 days in protest of his alleged illegal detention.”
said it had heard about the situation through correspondence with the Palestine
Football Association, media reports and the world players’ union
Sarsak’s lawyer, Mohammad Jabarin, said on Monday that Sarsak had
broken his hunger strike and had begun to drink milk the night
“In order to save his life, he agreed to start drinking milk and
he will be drinking only milk...he was severely dehydrated but after he drank
for the first time last night, he started doing a little better and is now in a
stable condition,” Jabarin told Reuters.
European soccer’s brightest
talents are set to grace Israeli soccer stadiums next June after Israel beat out
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England and Wales to host the Under-21 championships
and the IFA is confident the tournament will go ahead as planned.
certain that FIFA and UEFA will not mix politics with soccer and are certain
that the Under-21 European Championships will take place, as decided, in Israel
next summer,” the IFA said in a statement on Thursday.
contributed to this report