Amashe: World-class player with no nation to play for

Sinai Says: Politics and sports should never mix. Sadly, sometimes they inevitably do.

Wiyam Amashe 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wiyam Amashe 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Wiyam Amashe does not want to be an Israeli, but he wants to play for the Israel national team.
Sounds complicated? Well, it is.
The 25-year-old striker has set the Premier League on fire so far this season, scoring seven goals in eight matches, leading high-flying Ironi Kiryat Shmona to a four-week run at the top of the standings.
Amashe’s talent was evident from an early age, but up until this season he was just another name on the neverending list of promising players who fail to fulfill their potential.
However, everything has seemingly fallen into place for the striker this season, with Amashe displaying his sensational speed, surprising strength and fantastic finishing in front of the goal on a weekly basis.
Amashe’s form also caught the attention of Israel coach Luis Fernandez, who was keen to hand him his first call-up to the national team.
Everything looked to be set for Amashe to make his debut in the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Croatia and Greece last month, everything but a passport.
Amashe was born and raised in Buq’ata in the northern Golan Heights, a Druze town of approximately 6,000 residents. Buq’ata was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and has been administrated by Israeli law since the Knesset passed the Golan Heights Law in 1981.
However, the Druze reacted with fury to the Knesset’s decision, with the community leaders imposing a socio-religious ban on Israeli citizenship and holding a five-month general strike.
It is estimated that fewer than 10 percent of the Golan Druze are currently Israeli citizens, with the majority of locals choosing instead to hold onto their Syrian citizenship.
Amashe wasn’t born until 1985, but the events of 29 years ago leave him with an impossible dilemma at a pivotal point in his career.
Amashe played for Israel’s under-19 and under-21 national teams, traveling abroad with a Travel Document which requires him to receive a visa from any country he visits.
However, international soccer’s governing body FIFA has since changed its laws, requiring players to hold full citizenship and a passport of the country they represent.
As much as he would like to play for Israel, Amashe has no intention of requesting citizenship as he says it will result in him being excommunicated from his community.
“I might play for the national team for a year or two, but I will then suffer for the rest of my life,” Amashe has said. “My family and I will be excommunicated, no one will want to marry my relations and my children will suffer as well.”
The Golan Druze also demonstrate their independence from Israel through soccer, running a 10-team league of their own, in which locals with soccer aspirations are encouraged to play.
Even joining Kiryat Shmona’s youth team as a teenager was far from simple for Amashe. His father had to get special permission from local sheikhs before allowing Wiyam to play for an Israeli club.
Unrelenting injuries had Amashe considering retirement at one stage, but his hard work has paid off in recent months and his coach Ran Ben-Shimon believes he is the second-best striker in the country, after Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Itai Shechter.
Several years ago Amashe turned down an approach from the Syrian national team saying he wants to remain with his family in the Golan.
However, he has also ruled out applying for Israeli citizenship, leaving him in an unenviable quandary.
Amashe still holds out hopes of getting special dispensation from FIFA that will allow him to play for Israel even without a passport to his name. However, as things currently stand, it seems highly unlikely he will ever play for the national team.
Politics and sports should never mix. Sadly, sometimes they inevitably do, typically leaving a trail of frustration and sense of beguilement for all those involved.