Top footballers worldwide condemn Israel’s Gaza assault and call for competition boycott

Leading across the world condemn the Israeli assault on , describing it as yet another stain on the world’s conscience and express solidarity with the people of .

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See below for full statement by footballers, those who signed and their clubs.

 

 

A GROUP OF PREMIERE LEAGUE footballers and players in other major leagues have condemned plans to hold the Under-21 championship in next year, saying it will be seen as a “reward” for this month’s assault on Gaza in which young people playing football were killed when a sports stadium was bombed.

The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of and five Newcastle players – , Cheick Tioté, , and – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.

Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, , and .

The statement roundly condemns the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as “yet another stain on the world’s conscience” and expresses “solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.

It then focuses on the destruction of a football stadium which the Israeli military said had previously been used by Hamas as a rocket launching site but which at the time of the bombing was not.

“We are informed that on 10 November 2012 the Israeli army bombed a sports stadium in Gaza, resulting in the death of four young people playing football, and Ahmed Harara, 16 and 17 years old; and , 18 years old.

We are also informed that since February 2012 two footballers with the club al-Amari, , 23, and , 22, have been detained in Israel without charge or trial,” the statement read.

“It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the Uefa Under-21 European championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values.”

The Uefa Under-21 draw is scheduled to be held on Wednesday in Tel Aviv. But the choice of Israel for the competition is facing an increasingly strong challenge from pro-Palestinian activists who say that while the Jewish state has an equal place among footballing nations, it actively prevents the from having one.

Uefa’s president, , has previously rejected pressure to move the competition out of Israel.

, formerly of Manchester United, wrote to Uefa earlier this year over the detention without trial of Palestinian footballers.

“Racism, abuses and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country,” he said. “It is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states.”

The Palestinian Football Association has long protested that it cannot operate freely because of the actions of the Israeli military. Its president, , wrote to Platini earlier this year to say that Israel was in breach of regulations because of its treatment of Palestinian footballers.

Platini was not sympathetic.

“We cannot hold the Israel FA responsible for the political situation in the region or for legal procedures in place in its country. You know better than anyone that it is not by punishing people and isolating them that we achieve our aims. It is through dialogue that solutions are found,” he replied.

Full statement by footballers and list of those that signed and their clubs:

We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom. The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world’s conscience.

We are informed that on 10 November 2012 the Israeli army bombed a sports stadium in Gaza, resulting in the death of four young people playing football, Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara, 16 and 17 years old; Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi, 18 years old.

We are also informed that since February 2012 two footballers with the club Al Amari, Omar Rowis, 23, and Mohammed Nemer, 22, have been detained in Israel without charge or trial.

It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values.

Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge.

Signed by:

Gael Angoula, Bastia Sporting Club (France)
Karim Ait-Fana, Montpellier HSC (France)
André Ayew, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Jordan Ayew, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Demba Ba, Newcastle United (UK)
Abdoulaye Baldé, AC Lumezzane (Italia)
Chahir Belghazouani, AC Ajaccio (France)
Leon Best, Blackburn Rovers Football Club (UK)
Ryad Boudebouz, Football Club Sochaux Montbéliard (France)
Yacine Brahimi, Granada Football Club (Spain)
Jonathan Bru, Melbourne Victory (Australia)
Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle United (UK)
Aatif Chahechouche, Sivasspor Kulübü (Turkey)
Pascal Chimbonda, Doncaster Rovers Football Club (UK)
Papiss Cissé, Newcastle United (UK)
Omar Daf, Football Club Sochaux Montbéliard (France)
Issiar Dia, Lekhwiya (Qatar)
Abou Diaby, Arsenal Football Club (UK)
, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Soulaymane Diawara, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Samba Diakité, Queens Park Rangers (UK)
Pape Diop, West Ham United (UK)
Abdoulaye Doucouré, Stade Rennais Football Club (France)
Didier Drogba, Shanghaï Shenhua (China)
Ibrahim Duplus, Football Club Sochaux Montbéliard (France)
Soudani El-Arabi Hilal, Vitoria Club Guimares (Portugal)
Jires Kembo Ekoko, Al Ain Football Club (United Arab Emirates)
Nathan Ellington, Ipswich Town Football Club (UK)
, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Doudou Jacques Faty, Sivassport Kulübü (Turkey)
Ricardo Faty, AC Ajaccio (France)
, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Remi Gomis, FC Valenciennes (France)
Florent Hanin, SC Braga (Portugal)
Eden Hazard, Chelsea Football Club (UK)
Charles Kaboré, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Diomansy Kamara, Eskisehispor Kulübü (Turkey)
Frédéric Kanouté, Beijin Guoan (China)
Anthony Le Tallec, AJ Auxerre (France)
Djamal Mahamat, Sporting Braga (Portugal)
Steve Mandanda, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Kader Manganne, Al Hilal Riyad Football Club (Saudi Arabia)
Sylvain Marveaux, Newcastle United (UK)
Nicolas Maurice-Belay, FC Girondins de Bordeaux (France)
Cheikh M’bengué, Toulouse Football Club (France)
Jérémy Menez, (France)
Arnold Mvuemba, Olympique Lyonnais (France)
Laurent Nardol, Chartres Football Club (France)
Mahamadou N’diaye, Vitoria Sport Club Guimares (Portugal)
, Al-Sadd SC (Qatar)
Mbaye Niang, SM Caen (France)
Fabrice Numeric, FK Slovan Duslo Sala (Slovakia)
Billel Omrani, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Lamine Sané, FC Girondins de Bordeaux (France)
Mamady Sidibé, Stoke City Football Club (UK)
Momo Sissoko, Paris Saint-Germain Football Club (France)
Cheikh Tioté, Newcastle United (UK)
AdamaTraoré, Melbourne Victory (Australia)
Armand Traoré, Queen Park Rangers FC (UK)
Djimi Traore, Olympique de Marseille (France)
Moussa Sow, Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü (Turkey)
Hassan Yebda, Granada Football Club (Spain)

Chris McGreal is the Guardian’s Washington correspondent. He has previously been posted in Johannesburg and in Jerusalem. McGreal is a former BBC journalist in Central America and merchant seaman.