Dutch Soccer Team Leaves Star Israeli Player Behind
The premier Dutch soccer team Vitesse left for training in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year - without its best defender, after UAE authorities refused to allow him into the country. The reason: he is Israeli.
Spokeswoman Esther Bal told a Dutch radio station that the team had originally been given permission to bring Dan Mori - but that the permission was withdrawn just 24 hours before the team's arrival in the Islamic state.
DutchNews.nl reports Monday that Mori supported the move, in a bid not to "make waves" and cause a political snafu.
"Of course we wanted the team to be complete and it is very irritating for Mori that he is not with them but the interests of the team are paramount," Bal stated. "Mori said so himself. And as a football club, we steer clear of politics and religion." Bal added that canceling the trip in a show of solidarity would have delayed the team's training for the second half of the season.
Esther Voet, of the Dutch-Israeli information center, said Vitesse should raise the issue with the world soccer body FIFA. She mused that the issue could escalate, as the 2022 World Cup is due to be held in Qatar.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders publicly slammed the move on Twitter. "Vitesse did not have to go," Wilders stated, explaining that they should have remained behind in protest of the move. "Now they accept Emirati anti-Semitism - cowards."
Israeli sports figures have been banned from or discriminated against repeatedly in international competitions in Arab states, causing considerable outcry.
Last month, the Israeli team in the World Youth Chess Championship was forced to compete anonymously during the finals, also held in Abu Dhabi.
In August, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) fined the Israeli team for the Davis Cup, after they refused to play a match scheduled on the holy day of Yom Kippur. While the ITF never reversed the decision outright, the ITF later punished Tunisia for using the competition as a means of boycotting Israel.
In 2009 Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was denied entrance into the United Arab Emirates in 2009 to play in the Dubai tennis championships.