Israeli Soccer Stars Form Defensive Wall on Social Media as Pro-Palestinian Players Launch PR Offensive
Israeli soccer players competing in Europe’s elite leagues have leapt to the defense of their country, as some of the continent’s top players issued messages of solidarity with the Palestinians.
On Wednesday, several of Europe’s top Muslim players — including Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City, Paul Pogba of Manchester United and Miralem Pjanic of Barcelona — urged their followers to “pray for Palestine.” Liverpool striker Sadio Mane published a photo on his Instagram feed showing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with the slogan “Free Palestine” and a Palestinian flag, with a comment that said simply, “heartbreaking.”
In Turkey, senior players at Istanbul club Fenerbahce wore shirts reading “Free Palestine!” with the Turkish and Palestinian flags entwined as they warmed up before a match.
Their Israeli colleagues were quick to respond, however.
On Wednesday, Manor Solomon — a forward for Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk widely viewed as Israel’s most promising soccer export — shared a post from a pro-Israel advocacy group that displayed an Israeli flag alongside the pledge, “I support Israel’s right to defend itself.” A similar post was shared by Shon Weissman, the highly regarded forward with both Real Valladolid in Spain and the Israeli national team, which pointed out that Israel had been targeted by more than 150 rockets on the same day.
Israeli athletes from other sports also came to their country’s defense on social media as the violence at home worsened, among them NBA star Deni Avdija of the Washington Wizards.