A statement signed by 52 European football players has dramatically raised the profile of the campaign challenging European football’s governing body UEFA for staging its 2013 under-21 finals in Israel.
News of the statement, published on Friday November 30 on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute (pictured above), was picked up by the Guardian online and then by many other media worldwide (see references below).
The group of UK premier league footballers and players in other major European leagues said that holding Euro 2013 in Israel was tantamount to rewarding it for the assault on Gaza which killed 170 Palestinians in November, including boys playing football. Israeli aerial attacks also destroyed the Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for the 2012 Olympics.
The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of Arsenal and five Newcastle players – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.
Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including Didier Drogba and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.
The statement roundly condemns the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as “yet another stain on the world’s conscience” and expresses “solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.
It then focuses on the destruction of a football stadium which the Israeli military said had previously been used by Hamas as a rocket launching site but which at the time of the bombing was not.
The statement had originally been signed by 62 players. Ten, including Drogba, dropped out, possibly due to Zionist pressure.
The statement was welcomed by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has been working with activists around Europe to challenge the staging of the U-21 finals in Israel since UEFA announced its decision in early 2011.
Last Tuesday, ahead of the draw for the competition in Tel Aviv, the campaign circulated the text of a statement from a group of public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach saying: “it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”
Twenty-two British Members of Parliament have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons registering “with profound disapproval . . . that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”
Call on your MP to sign EDM 640
Sign the petition calling on UEFA to move the Euro 2013 final away from Israel
Links to some of the extensive media coverage: