FIFA postpone decision over Israel’s football suspension amid ‘legal assessment’

FIFA has postponed a decision on whether to suspend Israel from global football until July, with its president, Gianni Infantino, saying world football’s governing body needed to consult external legal opinion first.

The call to suspend Israel was made by Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub during an impassioned speech at FIFA’s annual congress in Bangkok on Friday.

Citing statistics about the impact of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, Rajoub called on FIFA “to stand on the right side of history”.

Referring to previous FIFA decisions to suspend the likes of Russia, Apartheid-era South Africa and Yugoslavia, Rajoub asked: “Does FIFA consider some wars to be more important than others and some victims to be more significant?”

Rajoub also said that more than 250 Palestinian athletes, the majority of whom were football players, have been killed in Gaza and several football stadiums have been destroyed. He also repeated his previous protests about the presence of six teams from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory in the Israeli football leagues, something he has long argued is a clear breach of FIFA regulations.



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Israel started its offensive in Gaza in response to the attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, when more than 1,000 Israelis were killed.

While Israel had wide international support and sympathy in the immediate aftermath of that attack, global opinion has shifted since as the number of casualties in Gaza has risen and scenes of devastation have been broadcast around the world.

Rajoub gained the full backing of the Asian Football Confederation at its congress on Thursday and his speech on Friday was followed by a more measured but perhaps more persuasive one from the Jordanian federation, as well as a second speech from another PFA official.

Sandwiched between those interventions from the floor of the congress, however, was an equally strident address from Israeli Football Association president Shino Moshe Zuares, who dismissed Rajoub’s demand as a “cynical political and hostile attempt to harm Israeli football”.

Like Rajoub, he told the delegates from FIFA’s 211 member associations that Israeli football had been greatly impacted by hostilities and said 130 Israelis are still being held hostage.

He also said that he still does not regret voting in favour of letting the PFA join FIFA in 1998 and hoped that one day players from the Israeli and Palestinian federations could play an international friendly against each other.

Having listened to the four speeches, Infantino called an end to the debate and clarified that a decision to suspend a member association can only be taken by the FIFA Council, its main decision-making body, which is comprised of 37 senior officials from around the world.



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He pointed out that the Israel-Gaza conflict is something “the United Nations has struggled with” over the years and FIFA is just a football organisation.

“Football should not and should never become a hostage for politics and always remain a vector for peace, a source of hope, a force for good, uniting people rather than dividing,” he said.

But he also acknowledged the seriousness of the situation by saying the matter could not wait until the next scheduled FIFA Council session in October, so would be addressed at an “extraordinary” meeting before July 20. This means it will take place between the Euros and Copa America in June/July and the start of Paris Olympics, where Israel is competing in the men’s football competition.

Infantino said the “legal assessment will have to allow for the inputs and claims of both member associations” and its recommendations will be forwarded to the council members ahead of their meeting.

Israel left the Asian Football Confederation in 1974, eventually joining European football’s confederation UEFA in 1992. Questions were asked about Israel’s status in the game at UEFA’s congress in February but the matter was quickly shut down by governing body’s leadership, who said they had no intention to ban the federation.



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(David Balogh – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

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