UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Football players’ anti-Israel discrimination breached FIFA Regulations

UKLFI has written to the Secretary General of FIFA highlighting how football players and officials breached multiple FIFA regulations during and following a FIFA Legends match in Doha and calling for the rules to be enforced.


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UKLFI pointed out to Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, Secretary General of FIFA, five separate incidents where its statutes, disciplinary and ethical codes were breached in relation to the Arab Legends v World Legends match in December 2021 and the FIFA Arab Cup. The incidents were:

  1. Three Algerian players boycotted the match because Avram Grant, an Israeli, was acting as coach to the World Legends Team.

  2. At the same match a number of players from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Qatar defaced their kit by removing the Israeli flag from their shirts, which displayed the flags of all FIFA members.

  3. The Syrian player Firas Al-Khatib took part in the match, despite defacing his kit, but the Syrian Olympic Committee and the General Sports Federation Organisation expelled him for playing when the opposing team had an Israeli on the coaching staff.

  4. The Palestinian flag was displayed at the FIFA Arab Cup by players and officials at matches that did not involve the Palestinian team. The Algerian players waved the Palestinian flag on the pitch after beating Morocco in the Quarter Final, against Qatar in the Semi-Final, and after winning the final against Tunisia.

  5. Following the match in Doha, the President of the Palestine Football Association (PFA), General Jibril Alrjoub is reported to have written to Moroccan and Emirati football associations condemning people from Arab countries who participate in matches involving Israelis and calling on them to boycott such events. General Alrjoub stated that engagement with Israel on the football field is a “serious and deep stab in the heart of every free Arab” and an “insult to the Palestinian struggle.” He told Arab teams not to “fall into the trap of a Nazi occupation” nor to shake hands “covered in the blood of Palestinian children.”

UKLFI pointed out to FIFA that all of these 5 incidents are a clear breach of the spirit of FIFA as well as its rules.

FIFA’s Code of Ethics prohibits discrimination under sections 22 (1)  and defamation under 22 (2) .  The boycott of the match, defacement of the Israeli flag and expulsion of the player were all examples of discrimination.

FIFA’s disciplinary code, which applies to anyone involved in football, contains a section on Infringements of the Laws of the Game, which includes offences of  “violating the basic rules of decent conduct, insulting a natural or legal person in any way, especially by using offensive gestures, signs or language;  using a sports event for demonstrations of a non-sporting nature; and behaving in a way that brings the sport of football and/or FIFA into disrepute.”  

The boycott, the defacement of the kit, expulsion and display of Palestinian flags were all violations of these basic rules.

The incitement by PFA President Alrjoub, including references to “Nazi occupation” and hands “soaked in the blood of Palestinian children”, was a further, very serious violation.

The incidents also breached FIFA Statutes, whose general provisions prohibit discrimination of any kind and also state that FIFA remains neutral in matters of politics and religion.

Sam Green director of UKLFI commented: “If these incidents are allowed to pass without the sanction that is available, and required, within the FIFA regulations, then in future all obligations on players and associations in FIFA governing documents will ring hollow and invite transgression.”