Netanyahu Blasts Palestinian ‘Politicization of Football’

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Tuesday with the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, to discuss Palestinian Authority efforts to boot Israel out of the world football governing body later this month.

At the start of the meeting, which took place in the prime minister's Jerusalem office, Netanyahu welcomed Blatter to Israel and praised him "for opposing the politicization of sport."

"Sport is a vehicle of goodwill among nations. The thing that could destroy the Football Association is politicizing it," said Netanyahu.

"You politicize it once with Israel, then you politicize it for everyone, and it will cause the deterioration of a great institution. I know you understand this.

"I want you also to know that we are helping Palestinian football, among other things because of things that you have raised with us, and we are going to discuss with you a number of measures we think will further help the situation.

"Again I want to welcome you in the spirit of goodwill, in the spriit of sport – unpoliticized sport. Welcome to Israel!"

Responding to the PM, Blatter said he concurred with the message that "football is stronger" than politics.

"I am very happy to be back here, and I like what you have said," he told Netanyahu.

"Football is nowadays such a strong, strong organization that we should go into a peace situation and not into a fighting situation, and football shall connect people and not divide people.

"Yes, football is stronger than all the problems there could be. I'm sure we will find a solution."

Blatter's meeting with Netanyahu follows talks with Israel Football Association chief Rotem Kamer earlier Tuesday.

Rotem branded Palestinian Authority efforts to oust Israel from FIFA as "cynical" and counter to the spirit of sport.

Kamer said that the Palestinian demand had "nothing to do with sports".

"We see it as a clear mix of politics and football, something which should not find a place in the FIFA Congress," he told reporters. "We believe football in our region should be used as a bridge between people." 

The PA, which has been a member of FIFA since 1998, wants it to bar Israel from international competition to punish it for securirty restrictions placed on the movement of PA players – the same restrictions levied against all PA residents. 

It also opposes the participation in the Israeli league of five clubs located in Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria.

The motion will need a three quarters majority to be passed at the FIFA Congress in Zurich.


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