Palestine Cup postponed due to Israeli travel restrictions

Players of Khadamat Rafah Club vie for the ball against Balata Sports Center during the first leg match of the Palestine Cup final in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 30, 2019. (AFP file photo)
Updated 04 July 2019

Palestine Cup postponed due to Israeli travel restrictions

  • The Palestine Cup is the top competition in Palestine that brings the champions of the men’s national league

AMMAN: Despite insistence by the president of FIFA of the importance of sports to peace, the head of the world body has been unable to ensure that a Palestinian championship match between a West Bank and a Gaza team take place.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) announced Tuesday that it had to postpone the Palestine Cup final due to take place in Nablus, between Balata FC, champions of the West Bank, and Khadamat Rafah, the Gaza champions, because of Israeli travel restrictions. After 1-1 draw last Sunday in Rafah and the two teams were to play the second leg of the final in the West Bank city of Nablus. According to a press statement issued by the PFA, “out of the 35 people on the Rafah team list, only four were approved; the club president, vice president, one doctor, and a single player. Two ‘extra’ administrators would be approved provided they agree to undergo interrogation at the Israeli-controlled crossing.”

The statement mocked the Israeli military saying “even in a surrealistic world, it is hard to imagine how these four (or six) gentlemen will be able to play the match!”

Susan Shalabi vice president of the Palestinian Football Association told Arab News that the FIFA headquarters were informed and they in turn passed the information to the Israeli association. “FIFA came back to us saying that the travel restrictions were for security reasons.” Shalabi called the Israeli use of the term security “the age-old cry of the oppressor.” She said that this excuse continues to be so conveniently employed by the Israeli occupation to hinder the development of Palestinian football, and deprive Palestinians of their basic rights guaranteed by the human rights charter, the Olympic charter, and FIFA statutes.”

“Ever since the cancelation (in October 2017) of the FIFA committee headed by Tokyo Sewali to investigate Israeli violations, the Israelis have felt impunity and have become much more active in denying travel permits. This has given them a free hand to reject without any reason or worry,” said Shalabi.

“The Palestine Cup is the top competition in Palestine that brings the champions of the men’s national league in the northern region (West Bank) and southern region (Gaza) together, yet Israeli restrictions make it almost impossible to hold the match every year.”

A spokesman for the coordinator of affairs in the Israeli defense ministry told Arab News that they had in fact received the list 14 days before the match but noted that this was untimely. “An examination of the issue shows that, in this case, a request was received on June 16, 2019 for permits for a delegation of 35 members of the Khadamat Rafah soccer team for the purpose of participating in the soccer game that was expected to have taken place on July 1, 2019. Although the application was untimely and therefore made appropriate processing pursuant to the clear guidelines impossible, COGAT went beyond that which was required of it, and, by means of all of the relevant parties, carefully reviewed the application. In this case, the applications of five of the delegation’s members were approved after they were extensively examined pursuant to the required criteria. The rest of the delegation’s members were not approved due to security considerations.

In its statement the Palestine Football Association indirectly referred to the recent US-led workshop in Bahrain in which the FIFA president spoke about sports and peace, saying that sport will give hopes and dreams to those in Gaza and West Bank. “While more football is being discussed as a ‘bridge for peace’ in some political workshops, convened in the absence of Palestinians, the foundations for these bridges are being torn down by the occupation. The sad truth remains that, while more football pitches are promised, it remains questionable whether we can actually use these football-pitches-to-be with our footballers’ movement thus restricted, and while the equipment to build our football infrastructure continues to be held by the Israelis,” the PFA statement said.

The statement concluded by calling upon FIFA and the six Football Confederations under its umbrella to “help the Palestine Football Association safeguard its right to play football, and its obligation to organize national competitions and participate in international competitions by taking effective measures to make sure football is played in Palestine without hindrance.”


Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup over doping

Updated 09 December 2019

Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup over doping

  • WADA's executive committee handed Russia the four-year suspension
  • Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year

LAUSANNE: The World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday banned Russia for four years from major global sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, over manipulated doping data.
WADA's executive committee, meeting in Lausanne, handed Russia the four-year suspension after accusing Moscow of falsifying laboratory doping data handed over to investigators earlier this year.
Not only will Russia be ruled out of the next Olympic cycle, but Russian government officials will be barred from attending any major events, while the country will lose the right to host, or even bid, for tournaments.
"WADA's executive committee approved unanimously to assert a non-compliance on the Russian anti-doping agency for a period of four years," WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald said.
Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics but only if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what WADA believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.
It will be up to FIFA to stipulate how a team of Russian players can take part in the qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup.
Euro 2020, in which the Russian city of Saint Petersburg will host four matches, is not affected by the ban because it is not defined as a "major event" for anti-doping purposes.
"They are going to have prove they had nothing to do with the non-compliance, (that) they were not involved in the doping schemes as described by the McLaren report, or they did not have their samples affected by the manipulation," Fitzgerald said.
The independent report by sports lawyer Richard McLaren, released in 2016, revealed the significant extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia, notably between 2011 and 2015.
It led to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) being suspended for nearly three years previously over revelations of a vast state-supported doping programme.
Full disclosure of data from the Moscow laboratory was a key condition of Russia's controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.
RUSADA chief Yury Ganus told AFP Monday that his country had "no chance" of winning an appeal against the ban, dubbing it tragic for clean athletes.
"There is no chance of winning this case in court," Ganus said, with RUSADA's supervisory board set to meet on December 19 to take a decision on whether to appeal the ban.
"This is a tragedy," he added. "Clean athletes are seeing their rights limited."
The WADA decision was widely predicted, with the body's president, Craig Reedie, having made a presentation Saturday to the Olympic Summit, participants of which "strongly condemned those responsible for the manipulation of the data from the Moscow laboratory".
"It was agreed that this was an attack on sport and that these actions should lead to the toughest sanctions against those responsible," the IOC said, asking that the Russian authorities deliver the "fully authenticated raw data".
Positive doping tests contained in data leaked by a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the laboratory data supplied in January 2019, which prompted a new inquiry.
Former WADA president Dick Pound, who chaired the commission that in 2015 made damning accusations of mass doping in Russian athletics, said Moscow had this time gone "too far".
"The IOC is a little bit tired about what Russia has been doing and so I see the IOC probably focusing more on athletes who are newer," Pound told AFP.
Pound acknowledged the influential role of Russia -- which in recent years hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as well as the football World Cup in 2018 -- "on many levels" in the sporting world.
"On the field of play, it is a big, important country. With China and the United States, it's among the sporting giants, so that's influential," he said.
"It's (also) influential because Russia hosts and is willing to host many competitions for international federations, especially those who don't have much money of their own, so they have a considerable influence among the international federations.
"And they've been quite strategic about making sure that they get Russians into positions on international federations. So they have an impact from inside as well as from outside."