Palestine and South Africa share the cup

Thousands of Cape Townians came out in support of the Palestinian people for the two games at Athlone Stadium. File Photo by Sharon McKinnon

Dubbed Football 4 Humanity, the games between SA and Palestine have been hailed as a show of solidarity with Gaza.

The president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, has called for the international community to rally for the freedom of the people of Palestine and for Israel to stop the genocide. Rajoub was speaking in Cape Town on Sunday ahead of the final game between the South African Invitation XI and the Palestinian national team. Organised by the South African Football Association Cape Town (SAFA Cape Town) and Sports Stepping Stones (SSS), the solidarity matches between the two teams were played in Athlone stadium over two legs. The first leg, played on the 11th of February, saw politicians including President Cyril Ramaphosa jostling for the attention of the crowds in the hope that they will vote for their parties in the general elections later this year.

“This is a message to Israel that now it is the time to recognise the existence of Palestinian people and their right to live in peace and security and within international recognised borders. This also sends the message to the international community to remind them that the suffering of Palestinian people should stop. The unilateral attacks by Israel, the atrocities and the genocide against Palestinian people should stop,” Rajoub said.

Rajoub, a politician and also the chairman of the Palestine Olympic Committee, thanked the South African government for bringing the Palestinian team to the country given their similar histories of apartheid. “I think it is the most creative idea in the history of Palestinian sports and to have such historic meeting in Cape Town, not far from Robben Island is a great idea. This sends a message to the Palestinian people that they are not alone, they are not isolated,” said Rajoub.

Ahmed M.A Ahmed interacting with fans after the game.

According to SAFA vice president, Bennet Bailey, the Palestinian team was well received in Cape Town. “When we visited Bo Kaap, the community went ballistic when they saw the Palestinian team. They were in a back of a bakkie as if they went in to attack but they were well received and it was messages of solidarity all over the place,” he said.

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SAFA President, Dr Danny Jordaan who according to Bailey has been unwell, congratulated the Palestinian team for reaching the last 16 of the Asian Cup. “I want to congratulate Palestine on reaching the quarter finals of the Asian Cup. Both the African Cup of Nations and Asian Cup were taking place around the same time but I kept tabs on the Palestinian team,” Jordaan said.

The performance of the Palestinian team was all the more remarkable since sports in the occupied territories has come to a standstill in Palestine – all leagues are suspended. ” It shows the tenacity, the resilience of the team and their will and hunger to succeed,” Bailey said.

The PSC-SA is calling for Israel to be kicked out of FIFA.

Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nocawe Mafu said that they financially supported the games even though she could not say for how much. Mafu said that the love that they have been shown in South Africa should motivate the team and the Palestinians to continue fighting for their freedom.

The Palestinian team won the match yesterday and, South Africa having won the first game means the fairest of outcomes – both teams share the cup.

Bobbie Cassiem from Sports Stepping Stones (SSS) said that bringing the Palestinian team to play in South Africa was a dream. “When I said I want to bring a national team from Palestine, people asked if I was joking and if I was serious. They said it was impossible. But, the team is here. It is not impossible. We will go to Palestine and bring more teams to come play here,” he said.

Massacre in Rafah

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign-South Africa (PSC-SA), on the 12th of February, Israel killed more than 100 people, including children, and injured over 200 people in airstrikes and indiscriminate shelling across Rafah. Being at the southernmost border of Gaza with Egypt, most of Gaza’s population has fled there. “The latest massacre follows Israeli’s weaponisation of hunger in the Gaza Strip. The people of Gaza face famine as aid trucks are unable to reach them and food production is impossible under the ongoing siege and constant attacks. Prior to Israel’s latest genocide, two out of three people relied on humanitarian aid for food supply. Since the genocide, people are unable to find potable water and are forced to scavenge for food while risking exposure to Israeli airstrikes,” reads the statement from (PSC-SA).

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Ronald Lamola, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Service had confirmed to Elitsha that they are aware of the blockade of humanitarian aid by Israel. The South African government in response to the situation wrote to the International Court of Justice which declined the request for additional provisional measures: “This perilous situation demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the court in its order of 26 January 2024, which are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah, and does not demand the indication of additional provisional measures.”

PSC-SA calls for Israel to be kicked out of FIFA

The PSC is calling for Israel to be kicked out of FIFA for “Israel’s apartheid system and systematic genocide of the native Palestinian people”. They contend that instead of dealing with Israel’s colonial racism, the the international and European football federations (FIFA and UEFA), “go out of their way to protect Israel, in effect supporting its racism. For example, Israel is allowed to be part of UEFA, instead of the Asian Football Confederation like other Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including Palestine.”

The organisation called out the hypocrisy of UEFA and FIFA for kicking out Russia in 2022 but allowing Israel to carry on as though it is not committing genocide. “The actrocities inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel far exceeds the human cost of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Yet UEFA and FIFA suspended Russia in 2022 from all football competitions while Israel still participates in football matches.”

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