Irish MP Mark Ward has accused the Israeli occupation of “sportswashing” after Israeli football club Maccabi Tel Aviv hired former Irish soccer player Robbie Keane as head coach this week.
Keane, who retired in 2016, will serve as Maccabi Tel Aviv FC’s new head coach for two years and is set to arrive in occupied Palestine soon to begin preparations for working with the Israeli club.
“It was deeply disappointing to see former Irish international soccer player Robbie Keane go to manage Maccabi Tel Aviv,” said Ward in a video published on his Twitter account in response to Keane’s hire.
Irish MP Mark Ward @Wardy1916 strongly criticizes what he calls Israel's #sportswashing by hiring former Irish soccer player Robbie Keane @robbiekeane12 as head coach of #Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv FC. Ward had an alternative proposal … pic.twitter.com/Wgt2pMlLLH
— The Palestine Chronicle (@PalestineChron) July 1, 2023
“My concern is that this move is another attempt at sports washing. When people of the stature of Robbie Keane ply trade in Israel, it is an attempt to gloss over and legitimize the apartheid regime,” he added.
“Robbie said in an interview that he was going to Israel for sporting reasons. This is no consolation to the family of Omar Abu (Qatin), a (a Palestinian football player) for Turmus’ayya, who was killed only last (week).”
Ward also called for a friendly soccer match between Ireland and Palestine.
“Given the historical connection between Ireland and Palestine, this would be a wonderful show of solidarity. What would make it even better would be if it was an all-Ireland soccer team that took part in this match.”
Noting that Ireland was the first country to host a soccer match against Germany after World War II in 1951, Ward continued, “We were world leaders then and we could become world leaders again and offer the olive branch to the Palestinian people.”