Sunday, May 19, 2024

Basketball Ireland placed in ‘difficult situation’ over Israel fixture

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The International Basketball Federation has been asked to make decisions over future EuroBasket matches after Ireland were placed “in a difficult situation” for Thursday’s qualifier with Israel.

Basketball Ireland were facing pressure to boycott over the Israel-Gaza war.

The game went ahead but Ireland refused to shake hands with Israel and lined up for the pre-match anthem beside the team’s bench, rather than on the court.

“Nobody wants to be in that position,” said Basketball Ireland’s John Feehan.

When asked to reflect on the controversy, chief executive Feehan, who said the Irish team would face heavy fines and expulsion from the competition if the team boycotted their fixtures with Israel, said he felt “we have done what is right for the sport”.

“Ultimately, we have to make sure we don’t exclude anybody within our sport and that is exactly where we needed to be,” he told BBC Sport.

“It’s been a difficult week but I think the sport is in great shape and going forward in a positive way.”

Feehan added he wanted Fiba [The International Basketball Federation] to make a unilateral decision on future matches and take the decision out of the hands of individual federations.

“No federation, anywhere, wants to be in that position, he said.

“Having said that, I think we have come out of it very strongly. The reality is that it is a difficult situation.

“I hope it is resolved over the next while, but, ultimately, that will be up to Fiba. We can’t do this in isolation.

“These kinds of decisions should be done as a totality. Fiba would have to make sure there is willing support across Europe to do that. You can’t do these things in isolation, you end up hurting yourself and nobody else.

“We hope that everything can be resolved. Let’s be brutally honest, everyone wants peace and hopefully that will happen in the not to distant future.”

The qualifier, which was moved to Riga because of the war, went ahead despite Basketball Ireland facing pressure to boycott the fixture from Irish Sport for Palestine.

The match build-up was fraught with tension. Israel coach Sharon Drucker said Ireland “did not respect” what the game symbolises after Irish players expressed concern about playing.

Player Dor Saar said on Wednesday that the Ireland team is “quite anti-Semitic”.

Basketball Ireland said the comments were “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate”.

Israel won the match 87-57 in Riga.

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