European Footballers for Palestine

SS Lazio's fans display a banner that reads, "Free Palestine" during the Europa League soccer match against Tottenham at the Olympic stadium in Rome 22 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Tony Gentile)

By: Hassan Zeineddine

Published Sunday, December 9, 2012

We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom. The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world's conscience.

We are informed that on 10 November 2012 the Israeli army bombed a sports stadium in Gaza, resulting in the death of four young people playing football...

It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values.

Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security.

The above are excerpts from a petition published on the website of Malian football star Frédéric Oumar Kanouté. It was addressed to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in order to protest its holding next June’s European Under-21 tournament in Israel. The statement was endorsed by 62 players from leading clubs throughout Europe, including Eden Hazard of Belgium and Chelsea, and Frenchmen Abou Diaby of Arsenal and Jérémy Ménez of Paris Saint-Germain. (Ivorian striker Didier Drogba was initially listed among the signatories, but later denied supporting the petition.)

A photo was also published of players who signed the statement holding a banner saying “no” to Israel’s hosting of the tournament and wearing shirts emblazoned with the word “Palestine.”

This is not the first time that Kanouté, who spearheaded the petition, has taken a stand for justice. In January 2009, after scoring a goal for his former club Sevilla in a Spanish cup match, he lifted his jersey to reveal a t-shirt with “Palestine” written on it in several languages. He was yellow-carded and subsequently fined for conveying a political message.

Kanouté’s aim at the time, while Israel was in the midst of its bloody Operation Cast Lead on Gaza, was to alert the world to the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians. Two years on, and after another military Israeli assault, it would seem he has achieved some success, at least within the footballing world.

Subsequently, Marcelo Vieira, the Brazilian star of the Real Madrid defense, caused a stir when he posted a message of support for the Palestinian struggle against Israel on his Facebook page.

Argentine legend Diego Maradona acted in kind when he was filmed donning a black-and-white Palestinian scarf that had been given to him by an Arab fan while he was coaching the UAE side al-Wasl. Turning to the camera, he made a victory sign and chanted “Viva Palestine!”

Another great, former France and Manchester United star Eric Cantona, stood up earlier this year for Palestinian footballers detained without trial by Israel during player Mahmoud Sarsak’s 90-day hunger strike in protest at his three-year incarceration. Cantona campaigned on their behalf, and fiercely condemned UEFA, which is headed by his compatriot Michel Platini, for ignoring the issue and letting Israel host the under-21 tournament, writing: "Racism, human rights abuses, and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country. It is time to end Israel's impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice, and respect for international law that we demand of other states."

After Israel’s latest pounding of Gaza, Real Madrid’s Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo donated 1.5 million euros to help Palestinian children. Germany’s Mesut Özil voiced his solidarity with the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and his anguish at the killing by Israeli forces of 12-year-old Hamid Abu-Dagga as he was playing football wearing a replica of Özil’s jersey. Arturo Vidal of Juventus – whose native Chile is home to a large Palestinian community and even has a first-division football club named Palestino – for his part tweeted his support for the Palestinian cause with the words: "No to Zionism and Israel! Free Palestine! That's a thought shared by me and all my mates."

Such sentiments have increasingly been expressed not just by football players in Europe, but also by fans of some clubs, notably Scotland’s Celtic and Lazio, Roma and Livorno in Italy.

The word of football, it would seem, is increasingly failing to conform to stereotype. It is about more than merely kicking about a ball, or stars basking in fame and fortune. Some of them, at least, appreciate that it can play an important and powerful part in promoting just human causes, Palestine included. For that, they deserve our appreciation.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

how people who don't understand the situation here can speak?
I'm from Israel i support peace, freedom, yet how can we trust the Palestinian when they get into our lands and kill families who did nothing?! you say that we deny basic human dignity yet you don't tell that Israel gives hundred of millions dollar to the Palestinian government and she takes all the money to herself and doesn't concern about they own people! because they know that without the hate of Israel they have no right to exist.
you say that we kill kids while playing soccer? when did it happen? give me one article about it. something. it never happened and you feed from their media who tries to make you to hate Israel. check your facts! while you make up facts, third of our country kids can't go outside and play, can't have normal life, because the Hamas bomb them everyday for 10 years! kids don't know what life is. what is it to get injured while playing football, only what is it to get injured from a bomb.

Sorry, but the ss lazio supporters are nazifascist.
They attacked immigrate in our city and antifascist.
Solidarity with palestine people is in realty anti jews.

No Nazi in solidarity movement

free palestine

I'm a Lazio fan since my childhood. The SS (Società Sportiva) Lazio has NOTHING to do with racism or Nazism. We have had in the past, in our ranks, a minority of individuals who sympathized for the radical right and fascism. We succeeded isolating them and what you are doing is just smearing at us and insulting us. We have nothing against Jews, antisemitism is the wild card you use every time somebody criticizes Israel's politics (not the Jews as a whole).

FREE PALESTINE from Rome. Tahya Falastin!

The photo of Lazio vs. Tottenham is a very unlucky one for this important case.

Lazio fans are well known widely fascists and racists, and their intention to show this banner at a game against Tottenham, which is known as THE jewish club in GB was just pure antisemitic driven provocation. They would not dare to beat up Arabs/Muslims in the streets of Rome or elsewhere, cause they are the most xenophobe racists in Italy and Palestinians should give nothing for their "solidarity".

The solidarity and outspeaking of the football players for Palestine is great, but Lazio fans are false friends. Other than Livorno, which has a very leftist fanbase and their solidarity is real.

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