LONDON – Two soccer players who allegedly signed a petition protesting against Israel hosting the UEFA European Under-21 Championship next June have distanced themselves from the initiative, saying they never put their names to it.
Following last week’s decision by UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, to award Israel with hosting the 2013 championship, Mali soccer Frederic Kanoute initiated a petition to express solidarity with Gaza by demanding that the under-21 2013 championship be moved from Israel.
“We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom. The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world’s conscience,” said the statement signed by 62 professional players.
“It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football.
Israel hosting the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values,” the initiative continued.
However, two players this week have distanced themselves from the petition and said that they did not sign it. Another player allegedly signed it with the name of the club he left last summer.
Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast player Didier Drogba said on Twitter that he did not sign it or support it.
“Please note I did not sign this petition nor give my support to it. I have always tried to work for peace and reconciliation,” he tweeted.
Yohan Cabaye, who plays for Newcastle United and France, also said he had not lent his support to it.
Writing on his website, he said that he had merely expressed his “sadness and compassion” to a teammate in a telephone call about the death of young soccer players in Gaza as he would have done “about any other children hurt in such a situation.”
“Under no circumstances [did] Yohan Cabaya wished to convey a political message to this cause,” a statement said on his website.
London club West Ham United questioned how Senegalese player Papa Bouba Diop signed it as a West Ham player.
The club told The Jerusalem Post that he could not have signed it as their player since he left in the summer when his oneyear contract was not renewed.
Diop now plays for Birmingham City.
The Fair Play Campaign Group, set up by the Jewish community in 2006 to counter the boycott campaigning against Israel, questioned how many of the other players were added to the petition without consent.
“How much of the boycott...general relies on inflation, exaggeration and, dare we say, outright falsehood? Suddenly a petition which appeared to have finally given some exposure to a failing campaign has become a laughingstock, its credibility shot to pieces,” the group said.