On 12 January 2015 Palestine started their first ever campaign in football’s Asian Cup finals. They faced previous champions Japan and lost 4-0 but showed a some good flashes of skill. Local support was strong and, impressively, two matches were watched live by British TV viewers.
The team’s participation announced to the world that Palestine is a real country – but which suffers real problems getting a team together due to Israeli repression. Sameh Maarabeh was not permitted to travel from the West Bank, Haitham Deeb could not leave Israel and two Palestinian FA officials were not allowed to travel from the West Bank. One particularly sour note was that no Gazan players (other than one now resident in the West Bank) were able to travel. These constraints are totally unacceptable and provide yet further justification for the suspension of Israel from FIFA.
At a Press Conference PFA President Jibril Rajoub said “I believe that Palestine’s participation at this great event should be a clear message to the Israelis to recharge their mental batteries, reconsider their policies…..The next FIFA Congress we are going with a clear request, either Israel abides by FIFA’s statutes or sanctions, including to ask for Israel’s suspension as a member associate of FIFA“
Several good articles were written about the development of football in Palestine and Israel, two of which were those by Rich Wiles http://www.palestinechronicle.com/world-football-should-penalise-israel/ and Joe Gorman http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/jan/12/asian-cup-palestine-fans-preview
Rich Wiles concluded with the observation that “Football is one of many tools that the Zionist movement has co-opted for its colonial benefit. Acknowledging these propaganda uses of football alongside an understanding of Israel’s ongoing actions against Palestinians should be more than enough to warrant sanctions”.