FIFA mutes call on Is­rael clubs

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Pales­tinian hopes that FIFA would get tough on Is­rael were muted yes­ter­day when world foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body put off a de­ci­sion on Is­raeli clubs based in set­tle­ments in the oc­cu­pied West Bank. The Pales­tine Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion this week called on FIFA to ei­ther ex­pel the six clubs in set­tle­ments, which are il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law, or re­lo­cate them within Is­rael’s rec­og­nized bor­ders.

The is­sue had been on the agenda at a meet­ing of the pow­er­ful FIFA Coun­cil, with world foot­ball’s pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino de­scrib­ing sport­ing ten­sions on the con­tested land as one of his “top pri­or­i­ties”. But FIFA’s en­voy to the re­gion, South African power­bro­ker Tokyo Sexwale, said he was un­able to de­liver a fi­nal re­port to the coun­cil be­cause his com­mit­tee “was not able to meet”.

He said the full re­port should be ready next month. In­fantino, who took charge of FIFA in Fe­bru­ary, told re­porters he would visit the re­gion “when (his pres­ence) would have an im­pact and when there has been progress”. FIFA has asked both sides to at­tend a meet­ing next month, “with an open, con­struc­tive spirit to find a so­lu­tion for foot­ball”. “We are not a political body and we are not try­ing to solve political prob­lems,” he added at the close of the two-day coun­cil meet.

“The sit­u­a­tion with the six clubs re­mains open. We’ll let the com­mis­sion work.” Wil­fried Lemke, the spe­cial ad­vi­sor to United Na­tions Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon on sport and peace, wrote to FIFA last week voic­ing sup­port for the Pales­tinian case. The Is­rael Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion has ac­cused the Pales­tini­ans of drag­ging sport “from the foot­ball field into a political one,” say­ing it wants to de­velop the game as a “bridge con­nect­ing peo­ple and not as a wall that di­vides them”.

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