Normally mixed soccer league sued for allegedly booting some Arabs into separate division

IFA says promotes equality, coexistence in over 100 leagues.

Soccer [Illustrative] (photo credit: INIMAGE)
Soccer [Illustrative]
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
An NGO filed a special petition against the Israel Football Association in Tel Aviv District Court for alleged discrimination against Arab-Israeli youth players in one of its regions.
The NGO, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, along with a parent of one of the players, said that the IFA had separated out most of the “Arab teams” from the “Jewish teams” in its “Shomron division” (though it is called Shomron (Samaria), it is composed of teams in the North and the Sharon region, on the Israeli side of the Green Line).
Adalah said that though in past years the Arab teams of the region had been mixed in with the Jewish teams, as they still are throughout the country, only weeks ago, the Arab teams were notified that out of 15 of them, 13 were being placed in an Arab-only division, while two would play in another division with 12 Jewish teams.
The IFA responded saying the new divisions were based “solely on geographic and professional factors.”
It added that it “runs over 100 leagues for children and teenagers, and the fact that only one of them is made up of an Arab population – a definition from which we disassociate by the way – shows” that “ethnic and racist” factors played no part in the decision.
The IFA continued that it is worthy of praise for its commitment to coexistence and equality and that criticism “from one parent, regarding which it is unclear whether he speaks for his team” should not define it.
Adalah acknowledged that the IFA mixes Arab and Jewish teams across the country, but said that in this case the geographic and professional factors were a cover for objections by some parents of some of the Jewish children in the region to playing against Arabs.
A letter from the IFA to the complaining parent says that the league will not artificially force players to play in a situation where they will not “benefit,” simply in the name of integration.
While the IFA appears to claim the reference is to the level of play, Adalah asserted that this was a reference to Jewish parents’ complaints that their children would find playing against Arabs unpleasant.
The petition asks for a court order to immediately block the change in the divisions, since the season opens this weekend.