FIFA silent on future of settlement soccer clubs

Tokyo Sexwale, chairman of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, reported on the results of the meetings in a brief statement, making no explicit mention of the clubs.

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October 15, 2016 18:10
2 minute read.
PALESTINIAN KIDS protest in favor of ejecting Israel from FIFA, the soccer federation, last month

PALESTINIAN KIDS protest in favor of ejecting Israel from FIFA, the soccer federation. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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FIFA did not make a decision regarding the fate of six soccer clubs based in West Bank settlements during the meetings of one its top bodies, the FIFA Council, on Thursday and Friday.

Tokyo Sexwale, chairman of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, reported on the results of the meetings in a brief statement, making no explicit mention of the clubs.

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“We are dealing with a highly sensitive situation in that part of the world, yet at the same time, what is of utmost importance is to ensure the game of football is not entwined in political conflict. At the end [of the day], we want to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians can enjoy the game in accordance with the FIFA Statutes,” said Sexwale.

Sexwale added that he updated the council on the work of the monitoring committee and encouraged both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to attend its next meeting in November.

The monitoring committee is comprised of members of the Israeli and Palestinian soccer associations, and was established in 2015 to resolve soccer-related concerns of the Palestinian Football Association, including that of the settlement clubs.

The PFA has been calling on FIFA to enforce Article 72 (2) of its bylaws, which states, “member associations and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval.”

The PFA is arguing that the settlement clubs are in clear violation of the article, because the UN has said that the West Bank is “a part of the occupied Palestinian state.”



Supporters of the settlement teams have challenged the PFA’s interpretation of Article 72 (2), saying that it would only be applicable if the borders of a Palestinian state were defined.

“In the case that FIFA does not make a clear decision to end the suffering of Palestinian sports, namely the organization of matches in settlements, we will resort to the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” PFA chairman Jibril Rjoub said on Wednesday, during a press conference in Ramallah.

The Palestinian and Israeli associations did not immediately respond to requests for comment following the meetings of the FIFA Council.

Israel and Palestine Human Rights Watch Director Sara Bashi said on Friday evening that FIFA “should provide the public with a detailed update of the [FIFA] Council discussion and a timeline for deciding whether FIFA will stop sponsoring matches on land that has been illegally seized from Palestinians.”

The watch issued a report in late September, calling on FIFA to order the Israel Football Association to relocate the settlement clubs within Israel’s internationally recognized borders.

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