Strolling around Zurich on the Wednesday evening of our arrival, we couldn’t help spot odd groups of be-suited men wandering around and sporting FIFA ID cards or carrying FIFA folios. One was interested to talk. When we mentioned the Palestinian proposal for suspension of the IFA his response was “oh yes, that’s political, isn’t it?”. …….. We could see we’d have our job cut out to get through to the other delegates.
You could identify the hotel for the UEFA pre-meeting on the Thursday afternoon by the two Maserati Quatroporte courtesy cars outside the lobby – only the best for FIFA and UEFA. FIFA’s “My Game is Fair Play” flags were up, so we put up our “Fair Play for Palestine” banner and patrolled the front drive of the hotel in front of the myriad of cameras, all waiting for Platini to arrive from the even plusher Baur Au Lac. A couple of media outlets interviewed us and we emphasised how football opens a window onto Israeli racism. Prince Ali of Jordan came and went; he should have seen the banner.
Perhaps the best thing was our ability to mingle with the delegates in the coffee bar (£4 for an espresso). They weren’t very interested in talking about Palestine bearing in mind the Blatter vote, but they did take the Beautiful Game leaflet and our flyer calling for IFA suspension.
The RCIR group was alone at that venue, but not at the evening venue for the Opening Ceremony where almost two hundred gathered, mostly French but many Swiss, Germans and Belgians. Banners calling for suspension or expulsion of the PFA were numerous and bright and made a good impression. Again we felt that we made good progress when lobbying delegates outside the building after the ceremony. The only annoying thing was the lobbying of us by Israeli PR types: it only took a few minutes before they mentioned Hamas rockets, the holocaust, Dresden (!), 1948, etc., etc.
Saturday was even better, with sun and better proximity to the arriving delegates. The EuroPalestine group filled a two metre diameter globe with helium to float over proceedings and they provided good music and dancing. There were more press specifically interested in what we had to say about events in Palestine and we did a number of interviews. Police constraints allowed a two and a half hour session in the morning and the same in the afternoon, which was fine. There were a dozen or so policemen lined up opposite us but two French activists managed to smuggle themselves into the congress hall and interrupt proceedings.
Reactions varied to the withdrawal of the suspension motion, ranging from deep disappointment to cynicism. But for everyone the resolve to fight Israeli racism was strengthened. Al Jazeera, the BBC and other mainstream media reported our actions. This will have been a major wake up call for people worldwide.
Local press were very interested in the Congress events, primarily because of the arrests of leading FIFA persons and the election. See the video in the Swiss German and English : http://www.aargauerzeitung.ch/mediathek/videos/1_rr6op2js