FIFA Delays Decision About Suspending Israel Until Legal Assessment Is Complete

FIFA Delays Decision About Suspending Israel Until Legal Assessment Is Complete

Shiryn Ghermezian

FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

Efforts by the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) to have Israelis banned from all international matches due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war are on pause after the FIFA Council decided not to address the issue at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday.

Speaking to the 211 member federations that gathered at the congress, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the FIFA Council unanimously agreed earlier this week that it will make a decision on the matter following a legal assessment. The congress supported the council’s decision, and a vote regarding Israel’s suspension did not take place at the meeting on Friday.

“Football should not and should never become a hostage for politics and always remain a vector for peace, a source of hope, a force of good, uniting people rather than dividing,” Infantino said. “This legal assessment will have to allow for inputs and claims of both member associations. The results of this analysis and the recommendations which will follow from this analysis will subsequently be forwarded to the FIFA Council.”

PFA submitted a proposal to FIFA in March that called on the governing body to suspend Israel from all international competitions. It called for “appropriate sanctions, with immediate effect, against Israeli teams,” citing alleged “international law violations committed by the Israeli occupation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza.” The motion also accused the Israel Football Association (IFA) of “providing moral, economic, and practical support to the occupation” of Palestinian territories. The proposal was endorsed on Thursday by the Asian Football Confederation at the 34th AFC Congress and PFA wanted the FIFA Congress to vote on the issue on Friday.

Infantino said FIFA’s governing council will instead “mandate independent legal expertise to analyze and assess” PFA’s allegations about Israel, and hold a special council before July 20 “to review the results of the legal assessment and to take the decisions that are appropriate.”

Speaking at the FIFA Congress on Friday, PFA President Jibril Rajoub said, “How much more must the Palestine football family suffer for FIFA to act with the same severity and urgency as it did in other cases? Does FIFA consider some wars to be more important than others and some victims to be more significant?”

“As I speak to you today, the Palestinian people, including the Palestinian football family, are enduring an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” he added. “We are witnessing the live, televised genocide unfolding in Gaza. I ask you to stand on the right side of history. The suffering of millions, including thousands of footballers, deserves as much. If not now, then when?”

IFA President Shino Moshe Zuares also spoke at the FIFA Congress and slammed the anti-Israel proposal, saying it has nothing to do with soccer.

“Once again, we are facing a cynical political and hostile attempt by the Palestinian association to harm Israel,” he added. “I am holding myself back … in the hope things can be better for the game for those who play in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, or those who play all over the world.”

He said soccer has successfully “broken down so many walls” and helped unite people, but there are some “who insist on using it to punish, to split, to taint with political motives and increase hatred.”

“I insist on using this wonderful game as a magic device to bond, unite, and heal wounds — mine, those of my people, and of any other nation, especially my neighbor’s,” Zuares explained in his speech, which also referenced the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel.

“Seven months after the terrible day, when football matches cannot be played in large parts of Israel, north and south, and over 130 Israelis are still being held in Gaza, it is injustice that even in these circumstances we find ourselves fighting for our basic right to be part of the game,” he noted.

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