LONDON: Israel should be banned from international football competitions by FIFA over the war in Gaza, a number of Middle East football associations have urged.
The group, led by Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, who heads the 12-nation West Asian Football Federation that includes Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, sent a letter to 211 other football associations and international organizations including FIFA, the global governing body, and UEFA, Europe’s governing body, ahead of the latter’s annual congress this week in Paris.
Israel, a member of UEFA, has urged FIFA to ignore the letter as its men’s team attempts to qualify for the 2024 European Championships.
In the letter, seen by Sky News, Prince Ali wrote: “We, the West Asian Football Federation, encompassing all its members, call upon FIFA, the Football Confederations, and Member Associations to join us in taking a decisive stand against the atrocities committed in Palestine and the war crimes in Gaza, by condemning the killing of innocent civilians including players, coaches, referees, and officials, the destruction of the football infrastructure, and taking a united front in isolating the Israeli Football Association from all football-related activities until these acts of aggression cease.”
The letter continued: “The humanitarian crisis demands an unequivocal and resolute response from the global football community.
“As members bound by the statutes of FIFA, we stand united in our pledge to uphold all internationally recognised human rights.”
Israel responded by urging FIFA to keep politics out of sport. The Israeli FA also wished Jordan luck in its upcoming maiden Asian Cup final against Qatar.
Israeli FA CEO Niv Goldstein told Sky News: “I am trusting FIFA not to involve politics in football.
“We are against involving politicians in football and being involved in political matters in the sport in general.
“So, we are concentrating only on football matters and our dream is to qualify for the European Championship in 2024 and I’m looking forward to world peace.”
In recent years, FIFA banned Russia from international competition following its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
“Obviously, we think there is a lot of difference between our situation and other situations that happened in the world,” Goldstein said.
Before joining UEFA in 1994, Israel previously played in the Asian Football Confederation from 1954 but faced boycotts from numerous other states. Israel was later excluded from AFC tournaments in 1974.
Israel has never qualified for an international UEFA competition but faces Iceland in a playoff game on March 21. The winner will play Bosnia-Herzegovina or Ukraine, with the winner of that tie qualifying for Euro 2024.
When contacted by Sky News, neither FIFA nor UEFA provided immediate comment.