On the 5th of September Wales met Israel in the European cup qualifiers in Cardiff. I had been invited up the day before to help in a skill sharing Know your Rights workshop with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign whom had organised a rally through Cardiff in solidarity the Palestinians. A lovely bunch of pacifists who spend their lives campaigning for the rights and freedoms of the Palestinians people.
The following day I observed the march and ended up in a park listening to the speeches and enjoying the sunshine when a friend asked me if I wanted to go and see the game. My friend being a full on footy fan and I too enjoyed the whole experience of football so snapped up the chance to go. As I left the park a friend asked me if I had a flag and I said it would be rude not to and stuffed the Palestinian flag with Bristol Anarchists written in biro along the bottom went in my pocket. We lined up and shared some banter, the lines fed through the gates with searches taking place and alcohol being thrown away.
We all got searched and took to our seats, The game kicked off and the noise of the stadium erupted. I watched the game for a while before I realised that their was not one Palestinian flag in the stadium. I had just assumed that people would be showing solidarity through flags during the game. I realised at that point I still had a Palestinian flag in my pocket, it went through my mind that it was just me, one flag and a stadium full of fans, a stand of solidarity had to be made. I had the only Palestinian Flag in the whole of the stadium. It was not a matter of if but how and when. I thought about doing a streak across the pitch with the flag maintaining my dignity I must add that was just a fleeting thought lol. So I just took the flag out and the flag got waved like flags get waved, the response was a little unexpected.
Before we knew it we were surrounded by aggressive stewards and police officers telling us we had to leave the stadium. I said that I wouldn’t wave the flag again now that they had drawn my attention to the fact that it was not allowed, they were having none of it. We were physically removed and once inside the stadium a police officer asked; ” Can I take your details please” me: “No” and she asked again ” Can I take your details please” me: “No” Then she said ” Well you’ll have to give them to me when I take you to the station” Me ” Now on what grounds would you be taking me down to the police station? ” “Racial intimidation of the visiting team supporters” This argument lasted for a while as my friend got man handled out of the stadium. The officer still trying to get my details another officer whispered in her ear and the note book closed and the argument ended and I too was escorted off the stadium grounds. Fuck they were so pissed off. But at no point entering the stadium had I been told that I couldn’t wave a Palestinian flag.
When we left the stadium we realised that we were not alone. Behind us were 2 Domestic Extremist officers as we walked they walked to. We decided to have a chat with them and ask them if this is what they had been reduced to following people that had been thrown out of football games. They told us they were just doing their jobs. We told them they were wasting their time. They walked a while, we stopped occasionally, they saw us far enough away from the station, we went to the pub.
So here’s a question why is a country that isn’t in Europe be playing the European cup? But the fact that Israel is allowed to compete in any football international tournament is beyond me whilst illegally occupying territory in the West bank and Gaza, accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, detention of minors without trial, I could go on. Lots of people say football and politics should be kept apart. So lets keep politics out of this and keep it just on the subject of football.
The Palestinian football team was recognised by Fifa in 1998. They haven’t yet qualified for the World cup but as recently as September 8th played United Arab Emirates in the 2018 FIFA world cup Qualifiers. They first qualified for the Asian cup in 2014 and at the finals in Australia where eliminated in the group stage. They have also played in the Olympics and received the FIFA development award. But Israel has hindered the progress of the Palestinian football team all the way. In April 2006, Israeli missiles destroyed the stadium in Gaza. Israeli authorities admitted that the stadium was specifically targeted – a war crime. Teenage footballers have been shot, one lad 11 times in the legs by Israeli forces as they returned from training. Members of the National team have been detained, one for a total of 3 years and others have had travel documents denied and travel restrictions making any training impossible.
So why is Israel not banned ? UEFA has the ability to ban Israel so why haven’t they? These are crimes against Palestinian footballers an established and recognised team. I mean they have banned teams before. They banned teams from the UK after the Heysal stadium tragedy in 1985. So why not ?
At the very least suspension of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) from UEFA and FIFA until Israel respects the human rights of Palestinians and observers international law.
- Exclusion of the IFA from hosting any Euro 2020 tournaments
- Replacement of Israel as host of the UEFA 2015 Women’s U19 tournament.
- Boycott by UK teams and players of any tournaments planned in Israel and of any matches with Israeli teams
- Direct support of Palestinian football teams
In the current refugee crisis lots of football stadiums have displayed banners welcoming refugees the same can not be said for Israel were are a large banner was on display in Tel-aviv with the words Refugees Not Welcome yet they take offence at my little Palestinian flag.
I have since found out the UEFA fines clubs that allow the Palestinian flag to be flown and to be seen as a provocative political symbol with large fines being dished out. What can you say to that? Apartheid
Solidarity with Palestine
The Hampstead mum