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[Boycott - Sports]

After flotilla raid, Sweden wants out of soccer match with Israel


Uzi Dann
2 June 2010

The ripple effects of Monday's bloody raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla could impact Israel's Under-21 team's quest to compete in next year's European Championships.



Another sports boycott action: Protest in Malmö
against Israel-Sweden tennis match (Davis Cup 2009)

The ripple effects of Monday's bloody raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla could impact Israel's Under-21 team's quest to compete in next year's European Championships.

The Swedish Football Association announced Tuesday that it will appeal to European soccer's governing body, UEFA, in a bid to cancel the scheduled appearance of Sweden's U-21 team for a game in Israel this week. Israel and Sweden are due to meet in a critical match on Friday in the qualifying round for the 2011 European Championships.

The Swedish team, which is currently preparing for the match by training in Cyprus, expressed reservations about playing in Israel after hearing news of the raid. The SFA cited "the events and the harsh responses to those events in Sweden and around the world," a reference to Monday morning's Israeli commando operation that left nine dead aboard a ship said to be carrying aid to the Gaza Strip.

"Like all human beings, we deplore violence and are shocked at what we saw," said SFA President Lars-Ake Lagrell.

"It's not pleasant to play in Israel at this juncture," Lagrell said. "But we will not boycott the game [if UEFA instructs us to play] because this is liable to result in harsh sanctions in the long term. Despite this, we would be happy not to play in Israel."

According to Swedish press reports, the Gaza aid flotilla included 11 citizens of the country.

On Monday, the Turkish U-19 soccer team canceled its scheduled game against Israel after it received explicit instructions from the Turkish government to return to the country.

"The Israel Football Association is saddened by the mixture of politics and sports," the IFA said in a statement in response to Turkey's cancellation. "It was possible, and necessary, to hold the game as scheduled."

As for the possibility that the Swedish U-21 team will not play its scheduled match in Israel, an IFA official told the Israeli news portal Walla!: "As of now we have not received any request from the SFA or from UEFA. From our standpoint, everything will take place as scheduled. We have no doubt that Sweden will come to Israel and the game will be played."

Natkho doubtful for match

Bibras Natkho, the midfielder who plays for Russian club Rubin Kazan, is unlikely to play in this Friday's U-21 Euro 2011 qualifier against Sweden.

Natkho is nursing a pulled thigh muscle suffered during the senior national team's friendly match against Chile on Monday. The former Hapoel Tel Aviv star arrived in Israel yesterday and was excused from the U-21 team so that he may rest.

His status for the game will be definitively determined just prior to Friday. U-21 coach Motti Ivanir is expected to have Ben Sahar and Ariel Harush ready to play after the two returned from last week's friendly against Uruguay.

If the game against Sweden goes ahead as planned, it will be played on Friday at 5 P.M. at the Nes Tziona Stadium. The game will also be broadcast live on Channel 1.


Source: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/sports/after-flotilla-raid-sweden-wants-out-of-soccer-match-with-israel-1.293650


Are Teams Right to Refuse to Play Israel?


Dave Zirin, The Nation
2 June 2010

"[We are] saddened by the mixture of politics and sports.” So said a spokesperson for the Israeli Football Association in response to Monday’s news that the Turkish U-19 (under 19) soccer team canceled its match in Israel. Turkey’s team made the move following the Israeli Navy’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that left at least 10 dead and scores injured. Then on Tuesday, the Swedish Football Association announced that it would formally request European soccer's governing body to cancel Sweden's U-21 game in Israel later this week.

The SFA said that they felt morally compelled to make the move following the flotilla attack and "the harsh responses to those events in Sweden and around the world." SFA President Lars-Ake Lagrell said, "Like all human beings, we deplore violence and are shocked at what we saw…It's not pleasant to play in Israel at this juncture." On Wednesday it appeared that the game would in fact go forward as planned, with Lagrell saying, "Since the United Nations has not decided on any sanctions against Israel we are obliged to go ahead with the match under [European football association] rules.”

This certainly won’t be the last time we hear about countries, teams, or players holding up the flotilla killings as reason to ostracize Israel in the realm of international sport. The question, to pick up the ball from the Israeli Football Association, is whether it should “sadden” us to see politics and sports so brazenly intertwined? Should Israeli sport actually be a safe space from how its government conducts itself? In my mind, the answer is a simple one: hell no. Israel committed an act of state terror on an aid ship in international waters whose passengers included an 85-year-old holocaust survivor, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and hundreds of activists committed to delivering the most basic kinds of food and medicine to the Gaza Strip. It’s actually dangerous, in such a situation, to just “shut up and play” as if there is nothing to see behind the royal blue curtain.

International sport, to awkwardly paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, is politics by other means. It’s used explicitly by all nations as a tool to demonstrate diplomatic goodwill. But in the context of such a visceral crime, international diplomacy morphs into little more than international propaganda and sporting Stratego. If a team refuses to play Israel because they don’t want to be party to the public relations objectives of a state engorged with violence, then that is nothing to be “saddened” about.

But this raises another question: if one supports the boycotting of Israeli teams, then where do we draw the line? Would we praise teams refusing to play the United States because of the civilian death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about rejecting China as an opponent because of their labor practices or treatment of the people of Tibet? Should teams refuse to play any countries directly involved in what they perceive as injustice? Once again, I will say hell yes. These particular games that pit country against country – whether in the Olympics, the World Cup or other avenues of international competition – are exercises in what George Orwell famously called “war minus the shooting.” In his essay, titled The Sporting Spirit, Orwell wrote, ”I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn't know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.”

This quote still holds the ring of truth but needs to be updated for the 21st century. Sports are still used at the service of nationalism. But in our globalized world of savage inequalities and dwindling resources, they are also used to present the poisonous relations between countries as somehow normal and even harmonious. And if it is business as usual between nations on the field of play, then surely everything must be A-OK when our heroes shower off the sweat and the cheering throngs wander home. But things are, as Marcellus Wallace said, “pretty f--king far from ok.” If a team wants to stand up and say “hell no” to business-as-usual in international sport, we shouldn’t ask why they are doing it. We should ask why more teams don’t.

Source: http://www.thenation.com/blog/flotilla-fallout-are-teams-right-refuse-play-israel


Sweden-Israel U21 qualifier to go ahead as planned


Deutche Presse-Agentur
2 June 2010


Stockholm - Europe's ruling football body UEFA has ruled that an under 21 Euro 2011 qualifier against Israel will go ahead as planned this week, the Swedish Football Association said Wednesday.

'Since the United Nations has not decided on any sanctions against Israel we are obliged to go ahead with the match under UEFA rules,' Swedish association president Lars-Ake Lagrell said in a statement.

UEFA told the Swedish Football Assocation that it had no seen any obstacles to the match, but was monitoring developments.

The Swedish association on Tuesday approached UEFA for guidance about the qualifier scheduled for Friday in Tel Aviv, citing the 'strong reactions in Sweden and around the world' after the Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships for Gaza.

Nine activists were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the ships.

The Swedish U21 squad is currently training in Cyprus.

Source: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1560236.php/Sweden-Israel-U21-qualifier-to-go-ahead-as-planned


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