Anti-Apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, top ranking professional footballer Frederic Kanoute and renowned filmmaker Ken Loach are calling on UEFA, European football’s governing body, to pull back from holding its under-21 tournament in Israel next month.
In a letter published in UK quality newspaper The Guardian, they and 18 other prominent figures draw a contrast between UEFA’s resolve at its congress in London last week to punish racism in football and its “total insensitivity to the blatant and entrenched discrimination inflicted on Palestinian sportsmen and women by Israel.”
Publication of the letter follows protests during the UEFA congress on Friday May 24
During a rain-soaked five hour demonstration outside the congress venue on Park Lane, Palestinian footballer, former detainee and hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak was joined by comedian and author Alexei Sayle in handing in petitions and letters from campaigners across Europe protesting that holding the U21 in Israel was a reward for cruel and lawless behaviour.
On Friday evening a group of young activists entered a UEFA gala dinner hosted by the English Football Association. Two were arrested but have since been released.