By Mohammad Omari
RAMALLAH, Monday, March 7, 2022 (WAFA) - The slogan "sports has nothing to do with politics", was, as a rule, always applied in international sports. Throughout history, a player or a team that used a match or a sporting event to express a political opinion was subjected to punishment. But that completely disappeared with the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis.
Since the first day of the outbreak of the Ukrainian-Russian crisis on February 24, the international community has imposed wholesale sanctions on Russia, affecting sports.
The international and European football federations decided to suspend the participation of all Russian clubs and teams in continental and international tournaments until further notice. FIFA decided to exclude the Russian football team from the European qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the International Badminton Federation announced the cancellation of all its tournaments scheduled in Russia and Belarus, along with other sanctions on Russian sports and athletes.
On the other hand, the international community has not taken any action against Israeli athletes or clubs despite the grave violations it has and continues to commit against the defenseless Palestinian people under its occupation. Rather, it has been allowed and welcomed to take part in regional, continental and international sports tournaments.
The Ukrainian crisis has once again brought to light the double standards of the international community in dealing with various crises around the world. After the Ukraine crisis, all the rules were dropped, and mixing politics with sports became a necessity, and even welcomed.
FIFA, which has repeatedly stressed that it will not allow politics and religion in its sports, previously punished Arab and international athletes for simply expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian cause and people in their struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation and oppression.
Numerous decisions were issued against teams and players who supported the Palestinian people and their cause, the latest of whom was the Algerian judoka Fathi Noureen, who was suspended after refusing to face an Israeli competitor during the last Olympics, and was suspended for 10 years.
In 2009, the Spanish Football Federation punished the Malian player, Frederic Kanoute, after he exposed a shirt bearing the name “Palestine” under the shirt of his Spanish club Seville in solidarity with the Palestinian people against the Israeli bombing in Gaza.
The same thing happened with the retired Egyptian star, Muhammad Abu Trika, who raised in 2008 during the African Nations Championship a slogan of solidarity with Gaza in one of his country’s matches. He was punished immediately, claiming that “there is no mixing between politics and sports.”
In 2016, the European Football Association opened an investigation into the incident of Celtic fans raising the Palestinian flags in the stands during the match between their team and the Israeli Hapoel Beersheba team in the European Champions League.
The famous Tunisian Arab commentator Issam Shawali, commenting on the match between Manchester City and Manchester United in the English Premier League, criticized the double standards adopted by FIFA in sports competitions, and its prohibition of sympathy and solidarity with the Palestinian cause while allowing it with the Ukrainian crisis.
Shawali said: "They said that politics does not go with sports, but the truth is that both are two sides of the same coin. The unbalanced scale allows what they desire and prevents what they hate.”
The position of his Algerian colleague, Hafeez Draghi, was not different, He said in a statement: "They call on us not to mix politics and sports when we talk about Palestine. But this will not deter us and should motivate us more to continue telling the truth."
He called on those who demand that he should not mix politics and sports to demand that Israel not mix politics and sports, leave the sports teams alone, and stop the siege on Palestinian sports.
The international community did not sanction Israeli sports despite the systematic destruction of the Palestinian sports sector by its forces, killing of athletes and arresting others, attacking stadiums, and restricting movement and travel of players to represent Palestine abroad and preventing international and Arab delegations from coming to Palestine.
All of these violations took place without the international community moving a finger, or even FIFA or the International Olympic Committee issuing a statement condemning or punishing Israel.
The crisis in Ukraine not only exposed double standards and the blatant intrusion of politics in sports, but how sports was used as a weapon for exercising political pressure, through exclusion from participation in international competitions at a time the European Football Association and FIFA prevented any form of empathy with the Palestinians, and reject all calls for imposing sanctions on Israel for the violations and crimes it commits against the Palestinian people in general, and Palestinian sports in particular.