FOOTBALL really has thrust itself into Middle East politics following Sepp Blatter’s visit to Israel and the West Bank over the past week. And as a result of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian representatives, the FIFA president has announced he will establish a task force to address Palestinian concerns over travel restrictions for football players and officials through border crossings controlled by Israel. The Palestinians are so concerned by the situation that the head of their Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, has threatened to call on delegates at the next FIFA Congress to expel Israel if the matter isn’t resolved satisfactorily. Every story though has two sides to it – and the Israelis were quick to push home that point. Rajoub’s Israeli counterpart Avi Luzon, said: “We have received (official) data…that no request the Palestinians have made in 2013 and has been rejected, so I don’t understand what the problem is.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also gave Blatter a much clearer picture of the situation. During their meeting he highlighted Israel’s security concerns, showing Blatter aerial photographs of a football stadium in Gaza which militants had used to fire rockets into Israel. He told Blatter: “They’re firing at our cities from football stadiums…in a civilian area. This is a double war crime: firing on civilians and hiding behind civilians…We ask FIFA to allow Israel to play fair and not to let the organisation and soccer to be exploited to spread lies.” So much for getting things sorted.
BACK IN 2005, two players teamed up at Wimbledon in the mixed doubles competition. One had turned professional the year before, one two months before. One finished the year ranked 45, the other 64. They lost their first round match and it proved to be the last time they played together. Since then, their careers have yielded different degrees of success. One of those players is Shahar Peer, the other Andy Murray.