“It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football.” So declares a statement by 62 professional footballers protesting the recent Israeli actions in Gaza. Posted on the website of Frédéric Kanouté, it includes some of the best known names in global football, notably Didier Drogba and Eden Hazard. It is a striking gesture, one with few precedents. It highlights how powerfully football and politics are increasingly intertwined in Israel and Palestine.
The statement expresses “solidarity” with the people of Gaza, and specifically mentions the bombing of a football stadium that resulted in the deaths of four teenage boys. (The Israel Defense Forces claimed the soccer stadium was being used as weapons depot and launching site by Hamas). The footballer’s petition also mentions the arrest of two professional Palestinian footballers. And it insists that it would be immoral, in this context, for Israel to host the upcoming UEFA U-21 Championship. Having this event in Israel, the statement argues, would be a violation of “sporting values.”
… But it was only in 1998, with the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, that a separate Palestinian Football Association was founded. Accepted by both FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, Palestine has fielded national teams in the years since then.
interesting post on palestinian soccer. one thing i might add, and also missing from all of the analyses of the palestinian statehood bid at the united nations last week, was the question of what international body is more integral in defining state sovereignty and national identity— the un or fifa?
the fact that palestine plays in international tournaments, is listed in fifa world rankings, and fields a popular, obsessed-over national soccer team in many ways already does what the un bid hopes to achieve— international recognition of a ‘stateless’ people. this is one of the themes i explored years ago in a magazine feature on palestine’s 2006 world cup qualification campaign. in many ways, the palestinian national soccer team created the spatial conditions of national identity that were a necessary foundation for the statehood bid to succeed so emphatically at the un. one might argue that obtaining fifa membership was the shrewdest bit of cultural diplomacy the plo has ever employed. as the late historian eric hobsbawm famously said, ‘the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people.’