match sparks protest
August 16, 2002
Plans for Scotland's Under-21 football team to play a friendly
against Israel have triggered an angry response from pro-Palestinian
Those opposed to the game going ahead have written to the Scottish
Football Association (SFA) in protest against the policies of Israel
in the Middle East conflict.
The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) is calling for a boycott
of the game - but the Scottish Federation of Supporters Clubs (SFSC)
said the game should go ahead as planned.
A demonstration was held outside Hampden Park in Glasgow on Friday
afternoon and a protest letter was handed to officials.
The match is scheduled to be played on 4 September at the Ballast
Stadium in Hamilton.
Osama Saeed, of MAB, said the game should be cancelled because
of the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he said he was a committed Scotland
fan and considered himself a member of the Tartan Army.
"From this perspective, as a Scotsman, I am a bit concerned
about how the SFA seems to be approving of the occupation of Israel,"
"It is this occupation that has crippled the hopes and aspirations
of an entire nation, which we feel warrants a boycott of it."
He said the SFA knew where and when to avoid trouble and had done
so previously when it cancelled a friendly against the former Yugoslavia
for political reasons.
However, Martin Rose of the SFSC said the SFA did not condone the
occupation of the Palestinian territories.
He said: "What they [the SFA] have done is arrange a football
fixture in a normal arrangement.
"What you have to bear in mind is that they can only make
decisions on fixtures based on advice given by the government, Uefa
"There has been nothing from those agencies that indicates
Israel should be treated differently than any other countries in
terms of availability for football matches."
Mr Rose said that people may object to the Chinese regime, yet
no-one protested against their participation in the summer's World
An SFA spokesman said the match was not political.
"We play a very broad variety of countries every year at numerous
levels and it is not feasible to take political concerns into account
and vet possible opponents," he said.
"However, given the concerns over this fixture, we have checked
with the UK Foreign Office and we have been advised that the UK
enjoys normal relations with Israel and there are several sporting
links between them."
However, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has given its
backing to the protesters.
General secretary Bill Spiers said: "We have written to the
SFA and the Scottish Executive expressing concerns about the game.
"At a time when Palestinian boys can't get to a football pitch
because of restrictions on them we think it seems particularly inappropriate."