The United Arab Emirates’ refusal to allow entry of an Israeli soccer player due to his nationality, and his team’s compliance with the decision, is prompting an outcry from politicians, national media, and Jewish leaders.
Over the weekend, the Dutch soccer club Vitesse abided by the UAE government’s sudden announcement that it would deny defender Dan Mori entrance. A spokesperson said officials had assured them that Mori would be allowed to come, but the day before the team was set to travel to the country for a set of exhibition games, UAE authorities informed them that the Israeli would have to stay behind. Vitesse described the situation as “very irritating” but said the “interests of the team are paramount” and that they would comply in order to “stay away from politics and religion.”
The team’s decision immediately came under fire in the Netherlands. Parliament member Geert Wilders called the club “cowardly” for “accepting the emirates’ Jew-hate.” Meanwhile, the director of a pro-Israeli organization in Netherlands worried that accepting the UAE’s decision could lead to a similar policy when nearby Qatar hosts the 2022 World Cup.
Entrance of Israeli players to Arab countries has been a point of contention in recent years, including in the UAE. Last month, Israel’s team in the World Youth Chess Championships in Dubai competed without displaying their country. Another soccer player, Itay Shechter of England’s Swansea City, couldn’t enter the country for a team’s training camp earlier this year. In 2009, Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe’er was denied entry into the country to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Although the team is set to return to the Netherlands on Saturday after its games this week, Vitesse announced that it will appeal to FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, to evaluate the situation.