A Message to FIFA: Enough with Hypocrisy and Double Standard

FIFA President Gianni Infantino. (Photo: UN, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Issam Khalidi

The problem is not mixing sports with politics, but rather abandoning humanitarian principles to preserve personal interests.

Earlier this month, the Palestinian Football Association submitted a draft to the May 17 FIFA Congress in Bangkok. The draft called for Israel to be held responsible for Palestinian sports rights violations.

A statement on the Palestine Football Federation’s website was made by Jibril Rajoub, the president of the Palestine Football Association, who said, “We’ve submitted a draft resolution to FIFA Congress to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian sports, especially since October 7, 2023.”

It has been reported that 256 athletes have been killed as a result of these massive deliberate brutal attacks, and 45 sports facilities have been destroyed as a result.

In response to the calls for an immediate vote, FIFA President Gianni Infantino rejected the calls, saying that a legal assessment would be conducted as soon as the FIFA Council convenes in late July to consider the allegations.

There’s no doubt that an immediate vote means a majority vote in favor of expelling Israel. For the Palestinian Federation, this could have been a big win, and for Israel, it’s a major loss. Instead, Infantino refused to allow a vote, saying that the matter comes under the competencies of the FIFA Council and will be dealt with there.

FIFA is procrastinating so that it can come up with devious and manipulative ways to disrupt this Palestinian resolution. There is a possibility that Israeli supporters might be able to use this opportunity to rally and affect FIFA’s decision in their favor.

The FIFA Council reiterated that “football should never become hostage to politics and always remain a vector for peace; a source of hope; a force of good. Uniting people rather than dividing.”

The FIFA and its counterpart, UEFA, made it clear that they did everything in their power to prevent athletes and the public from sympathizing with Palestine and others. This is under the slogan “don’t mix politics with sports.”

Nevertheless, the solidarity shown towards Ukraine became part of the rituals of the matches and the ethics of these two institutions. As part of FIFA’s double standard, in 2022 it acted quickly to ban Russian teams and clubs from competitions, after the country’s forces launched an invasion of the neighboring Ukraine.

The question is also: as a result of FIFA’s announcement that it fully supports Ukraine and has banned Russian clubs and teams from participating in any competitions involving FIFA, has it become a hostage to politics in the wake of its announcement? Is the refusal to punish Israel a sign that it is not a hostage to politics? This is an incomprehensible logic.

Historically, sports have always been associated with issues that are related to cultural, social, economic, and political aspects that affect every community and the world at large. As a matter of fact, sports outside of politics and isolation are rare indeed. Sports and politics overlap in many cases, to the extent that it is difficult to separate them from one another, especially in cases like the Palestinian one.

We are witnessing today that Israel and the leaders of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) are repeating the statements “Sports have nothing to do with politics” and that “politics should not be allowed in football.” Essentially, the former only seeks to justify its arbitrary practice of discriminating against Palestinian sports, while the latter seeks to justify its clear bias towards the Zionist lobby, by maintaining a neutral position toward it.

The problem is not mixing sports with politics, but rather abandoning humanitarian principles to preserve personal interests. As well as boasting about moral values without putting these values into practice. FIFA calls for adherence and respect for the law while at the same time it is corrupt and dishonest.

Western countries and international organizations, like FIFA, are notorious for their hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to humanitarian issues like the genocide in Palestine. They are clearly demonstrating this tendency in the way they behave. There is no doubt that time will reveal and expose this hypocrisy, and the flame of universities in the US and Europe will spread across many countries and international organizations including FIFA in the future.

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), no sanctions will be imposed on Israel either before or during the summer Olympics in Paris, which take place this summer.

In 1961, FIFA suspended the Football Association of South Africa (FASA). It was reinstated in 1964. FIFA expelled it in 1976, and then reinstated it after apartheid ended in 1991. Israel is an apartheid state. Racism in Israel is done in the same way that racism was practiced by the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

The more FIFA and IOC apply double standards to a wide range of issues, the more the world becomes aware of the negative image they portray. Infantino should be asked to verify his credibility as well as that of FIFA. There is a need to reconsider the foundations upon which this international institution was constructed, as well as its values.

As one listens to Infantino’s speech at the FIFA Congress regarding the fight against racism in football, one can’t help but think that he is a hypocrite:

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, from which country. The only color that matters is the color of the jersey that we wear.”

There are concerns FIFA may try to avoid another corruption scandal, such as the one depicted in the Netflix series documentary – FIFA Uncovered. In order to remain impartial when it comes to issues relating to Gaza’s genocide, FIFA has confirmed and stood by the occupation. FIFA sacrifices its own values and integrity for political expediency, abandoning its own values and integrity.

It’s important to note that the United States was not the only one behind this documentary (since Qatar organized the World Championship, not the United States), but AIPAC also did it, firstly because of the tremendous support provided by FIFA to the Palestinian Football Association, and secondly to intimidate FIFA and make it think a hundred times before discussing any complaint against Israel by the Palestinian Football Association.

It’s worth to note, that the Palestine Football Association asked the FIFA Congress in 2015 to suspend Israel Football Association from international competition for having six clubs from settlements on the West Bank play in the Israeli league.

In this regard, Israeli scholar Yair Galily claims that the Palestinians only had limited success in raising attention to their 2015 claims against Israel through the attempt to suspend Israel from FIFA – the issue did not receive extensive coverage by the foreign press (only 36 articles were found in the six newspapers examined for this study over a period of about three-and-a-half months), and the coverage was only slightly pro-Palestinian (almost neutral) in terms of the ability of both sides to present their arguments in the coverage.

Perhaps this is true, but Galily ignores just how much influence the Zionist lobby has on several organizations, including FIFA. In addition, the double standard that FIFA applies to issues such as the Palestinian one, as well as the inaction of the Arab lobby within FIFA, do not substantiate his claim.

– Issam Khalidi is an independent scholar, is the author of History of Sports in Palestine 1900-1948 (in Arabic), One Hundred Years of Football in Palestine (in Arabic and English), co-edited  Soccer in the Middle East, as well as articles and essays on the subject of sports included at
www.hpalestinesports.net. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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