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January 26, 2022 1:53 pm

FIFA Called on to Enforce Anti-Discrimination Rules After Soccer Players, Officials Display Anti-Israel Behavior

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Soccer fans carrying an Israeli flag at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Photo: Reuters/Henry Romero.

A number of soccer players and officials breached multiple FIFA regulations by displaying anti-Israel behavior during and following last month’s FIFA competitions in Doha, Qatar, the UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) advocacy group has charged.

“If these incidents are allowed to pass without the sanction that is available, and required, within the FIFA regulations, then in future all obligations on players and associations in FIFA governing documents will ring hollow and invite transgression,” said Sam Green, director of the British pro-Israel legal organization.

In a letter to Fatma Samoura, secretary general of the international soccer governing body, UKLFI listed five examples of what it described as “discrimination” in which players and officials violated FIFA standards during the Arab Legends vs. World Legends match and the FIFA Arab Cup in December 2021.

On Dec. 17, three Algerian soccer players boycotted the World Legends match because the opposing team’s coach, Avram Grant, is Israeli. At the same match, players from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Qatar scribbled out the Israeli flag from their uniform shirts, which displayed the flags of all 211 FIFA member states.

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The Syrian Olympic Committee and the General Sports Federation Organization then expelled Syrian athlete Firas Al-Khatib on Dec. 20 also for competing against the team coached by Grant.

UKLFI pointed out that the Algerian national team waved Palestinian flags at the FIFA Arab Cup during matches that did not involve the Palestinian team. The Algerian national team raised Palestinian flags after beating Morocco in the quarter final on Dec. 11, then again when they won against Qatar in the semi-final, and after winning the final against Tunisia.

UKLFI further noted that following the match in Doha, the President of the Palestine Football Association, General Jibril Alrjoub, said in a message to Moroccan and Emirati football associations that participating in soccer matches with Israeli clubs are a “serious and deep stab in the heart of every free Arab” and an “insult to the Palestinian struggle.” He also told Arab teams not to “fall into the trap of a Nazi occupation” and shake hands “covered in the blood of Palestinian children.”

FIFA’s Code of Ethics outlaws discrimination under section 22 (1) and defamation under section 22 (2), according to UKLFI.

The governing body’s disciplinary code also includes a section on “Infringements of the Laws of the Game,” which includes offenses of  “violating the basic rules of decent conduct, insulting a natural or legal person in any way, especially by using offensive gestures, signs or language;  using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature; and behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”

UKLFI called on FIFA to enforce their rules and said the incidents described in the letter “also breached FIFA statutes, whose general provisions prohibit discrimination of any kind and also state that FIFA remains neutral in matters of politics and religion.”

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