Exclusive by Justin Cohen
Organisers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have moved to reassure Israel’s players that they will be able to compete in the competition should they qualify, writes Justin Cohen.
Concern had been heightened about whether the national side would be treated like any other following outrage surrounding the absence of the Jewish state’s flag on computer graphics during last year’s Swimming World Cup in the Gulf state. The Star of David was replaced with a white flag.
But, on the eve of the start of the 2014 competition in Brazil, a statement sent to the Jewish News from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said: “We have consistently stated that all will be welcome for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar will comply with all FIFA rules.”
Similar commitments regarding the Israelis participation had been publically made during the bidding process.
However, despite having to make specific commitments regarding discrimination to FIFA, it failed to provide individual answers to a number of specific points posed by the Jewish News.
• If Israel qualifies for the 2022 World Cup, will Qatar guarantee that the Israeli flag is used and displayed in the same way that any other country’s flag is used?
• Will Qatar also guarantee the country’s name is displayed in full as with other countries?
• Will Qatar reassure Israeli footballers and fans that they will be allowed into the country unhindered in the same way as players and fans from all other countries?
• Will Qatar reassure people with Israeli stamps in their passports wanting to travel to Qatar for the World Cup that they will be allowed into the country unhindered?
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and former head of England’s 2018 World Cup bid at the Football Association, said he was “mystified” as to why each question had not been clearly answered.
He said: “Qatar 2022 will, without question, have signed an agreement with FIFA in which they undertake to do all of the things the Jewish News asked them to confirm. I’m therefore, mystified as to why they will not give confirmation.
“They have committed contractually to respect all teams, fans, flags and anthems. There’s no reason why Qatar should not answer these questions in the affirmative. Failure raises the possibility that they may not respect the terms of their contract.”
A FIFA spokesperson said the World Cup can only be held “free from discrimination of any kind. All countries applying to host this or any other FIFA event have to ensure the equal and non-discriminatory treatment of all players and fans.
Regarding the national anthems, entry to the country of players, officials and fans, Qatar has issued a guarantee to welcome all nations.
“All national anthems will be played; and all players, officials and spectators have the right to enter the country without any form of discrimination.”
The Qatar World Cup has been beset by controversies in recent weeks amid corruption allegations in the Sunday Times that have sparked concerns from sponsors.