Monday, May 27, 2024

Basketball Ireland stands by decision to play against Israel

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Basketball Ireland has stood by its decision to play against Israel during last week’s EuroBasket qualifier in Riga.

Ireland had faced pressure to boycott the fixture entirely, which had been moved to Latvia from Israel due to the war. On the decision to participate in the game, amid calls from Irish Sport for Palestine not to play – something which would have accrued heavy fines – Basketball Ireland’s chief executive John Feehan said: “We have done what is right for the sport.”

Feehan has now called on The International Basketball Federation (Fiba) to take responsibility for whether Israel is involved in international fixtures, rather than leaving national federations in the difficult position of deciding whether or not to boycott.

“No federation, anywhere, wants to be in that position,” he told BBC Sport. “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.”

Ahead of the game, an Israeli player, Dor Sa’ar, had accused the Irish team of being antisemitic, something that was strongly rejected by Basketball Ireland. As a result, the Irish women’s team refused to shake hands with their opponents or stand on court for the pre-match anthem. Israel won the game 87-57.

Sa’ar had said the day before the game, in comments published on the Israeli Federations website and social media channels: “It’s known that they [Ireland] are quite anti-Semitic, it’s not a secret, so we are expecting an intense game. We need to show that we’re better than them and to win. We speak about it between ourselves, we know that they don’t love us so we will leave everything on the court, as always. And especially in this game.”

Basketball Ireland said the comments were “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate”, adding: “Basketball Ireland would refute these allegations towards our players in the strongest possible terms and we have raised this matter with FIBA Europe.”

This article was amended on 15 February 2024. It previously stated that the Irish players had refused to shake hands with their Israeli opponents as a protest against the Israel-Gaza war. This was incorrect. Their refusal was in protest against Dor Sa’ar’s accusation of antisemitism.

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