*Open Letter from Gaza footballers to F.C Barcelona Club: Do not side with
the Oppressor!*
Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine
Dear President Sandro Rossell
We, Palestinian footballers, athletes and sporting organizations and
officials, are dismayed to learn the great team of Barcelona will host
Gilad Shalit to the Classico, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, on October 7th
more than 5000 Palestinian political prisoners remain rotting, many in
isolation, many with no visits, many on hunger strike with no attention or
care for them to be released.
The arbitrary arrest of thousands of Palestinians, including Gazan
Palestinian National Team football star Mahmoud Kamel As-Sarsak, who was
held without trial or indeed public explanation for the arrest, is a
routine tool of Israeli occupation. Mahmoud was only released after a 95
day hunger strike. Many others are in Israeli prison on hunger strike as we
write, some close to death. Mahmoud Sarsek lost 3 years of his football
career and nearly died while protesting with the only means possible to
him. He deserves to be hosted!
Joseph S. Blatter, President of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football
Association), has expressed “grave concern” towards Israeli practices and
its restrictions on Palestinian players, especially those incarcerated in
Israeli prisons, or banned from assembling for the national team. And
Michele Platini said, “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian
sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for
their behaviour.”
The Israeli illegal military occupation of Palestine and the five- year
siege on Gaza has suffocated the aspirations of Palestinian sports men,
women and youth for decades. So where are the consequences? Political
support for Israel’s practices by hosting one of the Israel Occupation
Force soldiers from one of the world’s greatest clubs?!
More Palestinians in Gaza support Barcelona than any other club, especially
among children who make up the majority of the population. We, in Gaza,
have all been through so much under a hermetic siege, regular bombardments,
and frequent incursions. The use of overwhelming force in Operation Cast
Lead in winter 2008-09 was responsible for levelling large swathes of Gaza
including the Rafah National football Stadium, and killing football players
Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1,400 other
Gazans. National team goalkeeper, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli
police in 2012 on “terrorism charges,” a label used for people whose life
was football, not politics. Many times the Palestinian team could not
assemble, train or participate in tournaments because of Israeli illegal
restrictions on player movement.
Our footballers are continually deprived entry or exit from what many
main-stream Human Rights Organizations call the world’s largest open-air
prison. .You must be aware of the example last year when Israel refused to
allow six members of the Palestinian national team to travel from Gaza to a
match against Mauritania. Like everyone stranded in Gaza, Israeli spokesmen
said the players were denied access for “security reasons”, claiming they
did not have the correct permit, reminiscent of the notorious racist “pass
law” in Apartheid South Africa. This is a continuous systematic policy for
all of us that has decimated our involvement in international sport. The
uncertainties from refused permissions to leave and enter the Strip and the
changing severity of the Israeli Siege and Occupation are a major
impediment and as a result the West Asian Union Federation does not always
schedule games involving our teams.
In 2007 the national team was prevented from travelling to play a World Cup
Qualifier in Singapore and eliminated, and in May 2008 for the AFC
Challenge Cup denying them qualification for the 2011 Asia Cup. The Olympic
players from Gaza have been barred from entry to the West Bank and the
youth teams have frequently been denied exit and re-entry.
During Israel’s criminal attacks on Gaza in 2009 our national stadium was
targeted and destroyed, as was the Palestinian Football Association
building. A new stadium planned to be built in Gaza, Beit Lahiya, was
ceased because of the continuing Israeli siege, which still bars concrete
from entering the Gaza Strip along with other sports equipment. And the *
only* grass pitch in Gaza had previously been blown up by an Israeli
missile forcing the national team to play matches in a virtually empty
stadium in Qatar.
Just as the effective boycott of sports teams from the South African
apartheid regime showed, sporting and political life cannot be separated.
We ask you to not show solidarity with the army that oppresses, imprisons
and kills Palestinian sportsmen and women in Palestine, and instead reach
out to those Palestinian footballers with destroyed dreams and broken
opportunities due entirely to the Israeli regime’s apartheid policies
against them.
In the words of Mahmoud Sarsek:
As a released prisoner, Palestinian national team footballer
and big fan of FC Barcelona, I strongly condemn the club’s decision to
invite the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to one of their matches and I call
on them to cancel this decision. There are almost 5000 political prisoners
held captive in Israeli jails, suffering daily the horrifying Israeli
prison practices that violate international humanitarian law and
international agreements. Our prisoners, many of whom are footballers and
other athletes, are facing some of the most brutal methods and practices of
psychological and physical torture. Only former captives like myself know
the full story of such oppression and humiliation which will haunt us for
many years to come. I call on FC Barca to boycott participation with
Israeli sports teams and call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of
Israel until it allows Palestinians their fundamental rights, including the
right to participate freely in sport and sports competitions. Do not invite
the Israel Occupation Forces soldier Gilad Shalit when so many Palestinians
rot in Israeli prisons for the crime of being Palestinians who wish to play
football and other sports.
Hosting Gilad Shalit is like parading a SADF soldier during the 1980s at a
European soccer match. Would you have done that, F.C Barcelona?
Signed by
FC Barcelona Fans Association in Gaza
Alwehda (unity) Club-Rafah
Alasteqlal (independence) Club-Rafah
Jamaa’i Rafah Club
Alnuseirat Services Club
Deir Elbalah Services Club
Deir Elbalah Union Club
Alsalah Charity Club
Alwehda Club- Jabalia
Jabalia Youths Club
Beit Hanoun Civil Club
Beit Lahyia Club
Albureij Services Club
Alaqsa Club-Alnuseirat
Almaghazi Services Club
Alnuseirat Sefrvices Club
Alzawaida Youth Club
Jabalia Union Club
Ansaar Jabalia Club
Alkarama Club
Gaza Sporting Club
RafahYouths Club
ALtarabot Club- Deir Albalah
Albureij Civil Club
Alredwan Club
Hetteen Club
Alta3awn (Cooperation) Club
Alwefaq Club
Aljazeera Club
Alyarmouk Club
Alrayaan Club
Albureij Youths Club
Alrebaat Club
Alzawaida Union Club
Almaghazi Youths Club
Alqarara Club
Alataa’ Althahabi Club
Alshaf3′ Club
Alshareqa Club
Canada Club
Alqadessia Club
Tel Alsoultaan Club
Shatti Services Club
Islamic Assembly Club
Khan Younus Union Club
Rafah Youth Club
Sports College—Al-Aqsa University
Players and coaches:
Mahmoud Sarsak (Palestine Soccer National Team Player)
Ghassan Balaawi (Palestine Soccer National Team Ex-coach)
Khaled Quake (Under 20 Palestine soccer Team coach)
Naim Salameh ( Coach)
Naif Abdul Hadi (Coach)
Jamal El Houli (Coach)
Abdul Hai Abu Shammaleh (

One Democratic State Group