FIFA arrests on the eve of Congress to discuss suspension of Israeli Football Association

I am not one for conspiracy theories. Now comes the ‘but’. 

Can it be a complete coincidence that the arrests of seven top FIFA officials took place on the 27th of May 2015, just two days before FIFA’s Congress? Two key items were on the agenda, the election of FIFA’s next President and the discussion of a motion by the Palestinian Football Association   (PFA) to suspend the Israeli Football Association (IFA) for Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinians to play football at all levels.

Reports say that the allegations levelled at FIFAs officials go back for a couple of decades. This means that a shot across the bow of officials could have been fired years ago. One has to question why it has taken this long to arrest some officials when speculation that there has been corruption in FIFA go back for years.

It would appear from early reports that the allegations do not relate to the award of the World Cup finals to Russia or Qatar. One of the allegations relate to the award of the World Cup  to Siuth Africa back in 2010.

I like every football supporter and indeed non supporters would want those that broke the Law to be brought to justice. I also have to question how this extensive corruption was either tolerated or went unnoticed by the President of FIFA Seb Blatter.

Blatter is standing again for a fifth term. There is much opposition to this especially from the English FA. There is only one opponent, Prince Ali of Jordan. I am sure that Prince Ali would make an excellent President but all predictions indicate that Blatter was expected to win in Friday and even now is expected to win if the elections are not postponed due to the current ‘difficulties’.

But why have these arrests taken place now? I am sure the FBI would say that their investigations had reached the point when they could and that would be fair. The various suspects were in Seitzerland for the Congress and therefore the arrests themselves could be more easily coordinated could be another defence. But could the fact that the Palestinians were determined to bring the motion to suspend the IFA from FIFA have had anything to do with this whole affair?

The head of the Palestine Football Association General Jibril Rajoub left for Switzerland in order to attend the 65th FIFA Congress. Before departing he said “we are going to Zurich in order to protect Palestinian footballers and to fulfill our rights according to the FIFA Statutes. Nobody should be treated as an association above the law.” The full press release goes on to say “Our asks are clear, just and fair: Freedom of movement, end of racism and expulsion of all teams from illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine competing in the Israeli league.”

With Israel determined to continue with its interference in Palestinian football using ‘security needs’ as an excuse, the Pslestinians would have been left with no option but to seek the IFAs suspension. Sep Blatter made a last minute attempt to convince the Israelis to  respond to Palestinian grievances during his recent visit but he failed.

The Palestinian bid to suspend Israel needs the support of two thirds of FIFAs membership to succeed. Unlike the United Nations Security Council, no state holds a veto. There was therefore a chance that the bid could succeed. If it did, it could be a tipping point for the BDS movement and Israrl’s isolation would have increased.  

At the time of writing no decision has been made either for the elections for President or the FIFA Congress to be postponed. However, there is growing pressure for both to be postponed, including from the General Secretary of UEFA.

If Congress is postponed one can be certain that Israel will be delighted.

Updated 28/5/2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns that FIFA will be ‘destroyed’ if it bans Israel. The FIFA Congress is due to discuss a Palestinian motion to suspend the Israeli Football Association on 29 May.

Updated 29/5/2015

The Palestinian Football Association dropped its bid to ban the Israeli Football Association from FIFA. Another opportunity missed to send a clear message to Israel that it must change. Israel will now go away to conduct business as usual and the Palestinians will endure the same oppression.

Update 30 May 2015

Former ANC leader and anti-apartheid activist Tokyo Sexwale appointed lead of committee to monitor Israeli policies towards Palestinian footballers.


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