Friday, May 24, 2024

Basketball Ireland furious at antisemitic jibe, Kieran Donaghy urges Ireland to ‘do the right thing’

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Tensions have further escalated ahead of Ireland’s scheduled basketball qualifier with Israel in Latvia this evening, with Basketball Ireland responding angrily to accusations by an Israel player that the Irish team is antisemitic.

The EuroBasket qualifier between the teams (4:30pm Irish time) has been moved to a neutral venue due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Ireland opted not to host Israel in Dublin at the end of last year due to security concerns.

Basketball Ireland has come under significant pressure to boycott the fixture in response to Israel’s ongoing actions in Gaza where thousands of people have lost their lives since October. 

Several Irish players have opted not to travel, but Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan said earlier this week that they had no option but to fulfil the fixture or be fined heavily by governing body FIBA and thrown out of international competition for five years.

Further inflaming the situation, Israel players were photographed with armed Israeli soldiers last weekend, while one player, Dor Sa’ar, accused the Irish camp of anti-semitism. “It’s known that they are quite anti-Semitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected.

“We have to show that we’re better than them and win. We talk about it among ourselves, We know they don’t like us and we will leave everything on the field always and in this game especially.”

Basketball Ireland have since responded angrily in a statement released to the Irish Independent.

“Basketball Ireland is aware of comments made by a member of the Israeli team and published on official Israeli Federation channels, ahead of this week’s FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifier.

“Basketball Ireland is extremely disappointed by these accusations, which are both inflammatory and wholly inaccurate.

“Basketball Ireland would refute these allegations towards our players in the strongest possible terms and we have raised this matter with FIBA Europe.”

Last night, Tralee Warriors star, and former Kerry footballer, Kieran Donaghy urged Ireland to “do the right thing” and pull out of the game.

Writing on X, Donaghy said: “Basketball Ireland need to have a rethink and be strong. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

“It’s a shame the players and coaching staff have been put in this position. They have worked so hard to play at this level and represent their country and they do it with immense pride.

“This decision should not sit solely on their shoulders.

“How the FIBA governing bodies are allowing a country committing genocide compete is a scandal in itself and worse to be forcing Basketball Ireland and our girls to play by threatening huge financial sanctions, along with being banished into the wilderness of elite level basketball.

“The €80,000 and more that they will be fined can be raised on a gofundme page in a few days as the country would get behind our girls.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ruled out government intervention in the matter. Speaking on Pat Kenny’s Newstalk programme on Thursday morning, the Taoiseach said it was up to Basketball Ireland and the players whether the match goes ahead.

Minister of State for Sport Thomas Byrne acknowledged the fixture puts individual players in a “very difficult position”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, the minister said it was unfair to expect players or sporting bodies to “navigate the world of international politics”.

“My solidarity is with them, because the pressure is hugely under them. They are under the spotlight in a way they wouldn’t be used to. The pressure was on this team before those photographs were taken or those statements were made this week.

“I don’t want our basketball players, basketball association, to have to navigate international foreign policy, these difficult situations. That is what the government is there for, that is what the Tánaiste is doing currently in Washington DC.”

However, in a statement, the minister said it was Basketball Ireland’s decision whether to fulfil the fixture while noting that other nations had “continued to honour fixture schedules with Israel”.

“The Irish Government continues to call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and for full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access. The Government does not have a role in relation to the setting, or fulfilment, of sporting fixtures by any sporting organisation, including Basketball Ireland,”

“Ultimately, such matters are a decision for the sporting organisations themselves, which are independent and autonomous entities. In particular, the international federations (FIBA in the case of basketball), have a leadership role for their global games and it is at this level that strategic decisions should be taken rather than by individual NGBs.

“Basketball Ireland has made the decision to honour its fixture commitment. It has set out its reasons for doing so and we must acknowledge its independence and autonomy in arriving at this decision. It should also be acknowledged that this situation places individual players in a very difficult position.

“It should be noted that sporting entities in other countries have continued to honour fixture schedules with Israel.”

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