Contrary to what FIFA said Wednesday in a widely reported press release, there are no plans for a meeting between the Palestinian Football Association and the Israeli Football Association, the PFA confirmed to Fusion.
The announced meeting comes in the wake of a PFA proposal that would expel Israel from the international soccer body during this month’s FIFA Congress, but the PFA “[doesn’t] want to meet with the IFA” and said a potential meeting “would be another photo session with smiles and handshakes while our footballers continue to suffer.”
Restrictions over the free movement of players and essential equipment are the main contentions of the PFA’s proposal, which is on the agenda the May 28-29 congress. The proposal also claims that Israel has systematically interfered with the PFA’s ability to operate, in violation of FIFA statutes that say: “Each member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.”
Palestine may not be recognized as a country in the United Nations, but it is granted full autonomy with its FIFA membership.
In Wednesday’s release, FIFA states, “A meeting between the Presidents of the IFA and PFA is scheduled to take place in Zurich in the next few days.” But when I emailed PFA spokesperson Susan Shabali to confirm the meeting and ask a few questions about the proposal, she said the PFA was “surprised by the statement” and that “it was on the website of FIFA even before [the PFA] got the invitation letter.”
Bluntly, she told me there are no current plans for a meeting.
“The fact of the matter is not that we don’t want to meet with the IFA. We’ve met with them many times before, and are still ready to do so, but only if they come with guarantees that can solve the issues in the proposal,” she said.
It’s not the first time such a proposal has been brought to FIFA. In 2013, the PFA introduced it in the 63rd FIFA Congress held in Mauritius. Last year, they brought it up at the 64th Congress in Sao Paolo, but PFA President Jibril Rajoub eventually agreed to drop it.
This time, the PFA will not back down, Rajoub told Reuters in a recent interview.
“A year ago I agreed to drop the proposal, I will not do that again,” Rjoub explained. “The aggression towards our sportsmen and women in the West Bank and Gaza continues. It is hostile and racist and the time has come to take action.”
The proposal, which is now on the official agenda of the Congress, would need approval from three-fourths of the 209-member body to pass. Rajoub told Reuters he is confident the organization has the support of Europe, Africa and Asian countries.
If FIFA were to suspend or expel Israel, the country’s soccer teams and clubs would be barred from playing in FIFA-sanctioned international events. The venue of an upcoming European women’s under-19 championship would have to be moved out of the country.
For Israel’s part, IFA chairman Ofer Eini called the proposal “a flagrant move that seeks to mix politics with sport — something that is completely contrary to FIFA’s vision.” Wednesday’s meeting with FIFA President Sepp Blatter was a part of the organization’s efforts to “prevent the possibility of a vote,” he added.
FIFA’s Wednesday statement reiterated president Sepp Blatter’s position that “any member association that is fulfilling its statutory duties should not be suspended. This would also apply to the IFA as long as they fulfil such duties.”
Shabali, the PFA’s spokesperson, says she hopes the IFA will agree to settle the longstanding issues listed in the proposal — otherwise another meeting between the two sides would be pointless.