CAIRO: Palestinian football leaders and activists have called on the European Football Association (UEFA) to not host the Under-21 tournament in Israel.
The Palestine Football Federation President Jibril Rojoub said in a letter to UEFA President Michel Platini that Europe should not hold a championship in a country that jails football players, citing at least three Palestinian footballers currently in prison in the country.
He said that Israel is in “direct violation of FIFA regulations.”
“We ask, your excellency, to not give Israel the honor to host the next UEFA Under-21 Championship,” Rajoub said, in a letter seen by The Associated Press on Thursday.
“We are deeply concerned about the situation of our footballers.”
Israel is set to host the 8 nation tournament across four venues from June 5 to 18 next year.
The UEFA executive committee voted for Israel in January 2011 over competing bids from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, England and Wales.
Rajoub is pressuring Platini to intervene on Palestine’s behalf as player Mahmoud Sarsak approaches his fourth month on a hunger strike.
Israel has detained Sarsak without trial for three years as an “illegal combatant” after he was stopped at a Gaza Strip checkpoint while traveling to an international match, Rajoub said.
“For athletes in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement, and the risks of being detained or even killed are always looming before their eyes,” he wrote.