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April 16, 2018 12:34 pm

Qatari Sports Channel Promotes Gaza ‘March of Return’ During TV Coverage of Crucial Soccer Contest

avatar by Ben Cohen

Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah scores against Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League. Photo: Reuters / Andrew Yates.

A soccer announcer for the Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN Sports began his coverage of a crucial UEFA Champions League match last week by declaring solidarity with Palestinian rioters on the Israel-Gaza Strip border seeking to “return to the lands occupied in 1948.”

As Liverpool and Manchester City players lined up for the much-anticipated second installment of their Champions League quarterfinal tie on April 10, beIN‘s Algerian commentator, Hafid Derradji, promised that an exciting match was in store. But as the two teams playing formations scrolled down the screen, Derradji apparently decided that viewers would rather hear a solidarity message with the Palestinians than a discussion of tactics on the pitch.

Addressing “our steadfast viewers in the Gaza Strip and the occupied lands,” Derradji — in a clip made available by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — said he hoped they could watch the entire game “without any of the power outages to which they have become accustomed.”

An excerpt from the beIN Sports soccer commentary introducing the Champions League contest. Screenshot:

(The closure of Gaza’s only power plant by the Palestinian Energy Authority due to lack of fuel earlier this month has crippled the electricity supply in the coastal enclave, with the only relief coming from Israel, which provides 120 megawatts per day out of the total of 500 required. Electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza from Egypt, meanwhile, are essentially suspended.)

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Derradji declared: “We wish them all the best in their Great Marches of Return to the lands that have been occupied since 1948.”

“We salute you, oh heroes,” Derradji continued, over images of players taking their positions for the kick-off. “We wish you more perseverance and steadfastness.”

beIN Sports — which broadcasts soccer, basketball and other sports on its English, French, Spanish and Arabic  channels — is a spin-off from the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Media Network. Its chairman, Nasser al-Khelaifi, is a confidant of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and one of the emirate’s leading international investors. Based in Paris, al-Khelaifi — a minister without portfolio in the emir’s cabinet — is also the chairman of Qatar Sports Investments and the owner of FC Paris St. Germain, France’s leading soccer club.

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