AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The year 2021 showcased two scenes in global sports events; the first highlighted the extent of the normalization process with the Israeli occupation, but the second scene witnessed the power of sports boycotting "Israel" and its effect.
In protest of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the daily human rights violations against Palestinians, the sports boycott of “Israel” has been effective in the year 2021, with namely Algeria reiterating its support for Palestine and the Palestinian cause in every sports event. Boycotting “Israel” in sports has outraged the occupation. In response, the Occupation attempted to influence sports federations into penalizing athletes who refuse normalization.
Algeria leading the boycott battle
A few days ago, Algeria's national football team grasped the 2021 Arab Cup championship held in Qatar after winning 2-0 over Tunisia's national team in the extra time.
In front of 60,456 fans present at Al Bayt stadium in Doha, Amir Sayoud scored Algeria's first goal in the 99th minute of extra time, followed by Yacine Brahimi's second goal in the 125th minute, crowning their country as Arab champions.
After the final whistle, the Algerian coach Madjid Bougherra said, "We dedicate the Arab Cup to the Palestinian people and our people in Gaza."
Algeria maintains no diplomatic ties with the Israeli occupation regime and has long been an outspoken and avid supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Algeria's national football team celebrated its win over Morocco in the Arab Cup semi-finals while waving high the Palestinian flag and kufiya.
Algerian athletes boycotting "Israel"
Three Algerian football stars boycotted a match that gathered "legends" in Doha over the participation of an Israeli coach on the sidelines of the 2020 Arab Cup in Qatar, Quds News Network reported.
Rabah Madjer, Rafik Saïfi, and Rafik Halliche were among players on the FIFA Arab Legends' formation who were supposed to face the FIFA World Legends in a friendly exhibition match.
However, the three Algerians decided not to take part in the match upon Israeli coach Avram Grant's participation with the World Legends team.
The Israeli coach had previously managed English club Chelsea as well as "'Israel's' national team" between 2002-2006.
Nevertheless, several Arab former footballers have participated in the normalization match. Among those was Saudi player Nawaf Al-Temyat, who justified his participation by claiming he hid or covered the Israeli occupation flag on the jersey he wore. Firas Al-Khatib, a Syrian player, also participated.
In response, the Syrian Olympic Committee expelled Al-Khatib after his participation in the "legends" match with Grant.
The expulsion was imposed against Al-Khatib "for violating the values and ideals of the organization, and for deviating from national principles," the committee said in a statement.
Algeria defends Palestine in the Olympics
In late November, Algerian Judo champion Fethi Nourine announced his retirement two months after the International Olympic Committee suspended him from competitions for 10 years over his withdrawal from the Tokyo2020 Olympics to avoid facing an Israeli opponent in solidarity with Palestine.
"I know that international federations have always colluded with Zionist terrorism, especially the International Judo Federation, and perhaps the best evidence is that my punishment remains the same even after filing an appeal," Nourine stressed.
He affirmed that he "will never stop supporting the Palestinian cause, no matter what."
Nourine also mentioned that he did not regret his decision, even voicing pride in it.
The Algerian champion said he would take advantage "of every opportunity to expose the Zionist entity and defend our rights in Palestine.”
Similarly, Sudan's judoka Mohamed Abdel Latif also refused to play against "Israel's" judoka in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Abdel Latif did not attend the match, rejecting normalization and achieving victory for Palestine in his honorable stance.
The Sudanese judoka's step to sacrifice his participation in the Olympics and to avoid playing against an Israeli player embodies a blow to the normalization agreement between Sudan and "Israel", which dismisses the Sudanese people's support of the Palestinian cause.
The Influence of Zionism on International Judo
Arab athletes’ refusal to normalize in sports events angered “Israel”, as they tried to pressure federations to impose penalties against local federations and players.
In fact, the International Judo Federation, headed by Marius Vizer, had forced in May 2019 the countries participating in international Judo tournaments to pledge to abide by the Olympic rules and compete with each country, including “Israel".
Vizer is known for his strong relationship with the head of the Israeli Judo Federation, Moshe Ponte, in addition to his relations with various pro-"Israel" organizations, which had allowed him to adopt several rules and regulations that aim to limit the expansion of the sports boycott movement against “Israel".
In 2018, Vizer pushed for adopting a law forcing all the federations hosting international sports events to allow the participation of Israeli competitors and playing the Israeli anthem “Hatikva.”
Sayyed Khamenei stresses on sports boycott
When Iranian Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei met medalists who participated at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, he hailed the bravery of the Iranian athletes refusing to recognize “Israel” by not facing its representatives despite the looming consequences, describing the situation as "a very important issue."
"The ruthless, genocidal, and illegitimate regime is trying to gain legitimacy by participating in international sports arenas, and the world of arrogance is helping it, but honorable sports officials and athletes should not be passive in this regard at all," the Iranian Leader stressed.
Furthermore, Ayatollah Khamenei denounced the Israeli regime's retaliatory measures, which included pushing for the suspension or banning of athletes who refused to play against an Israeli player.
"The ministries of sports and foreign affairs and legal bodies should pursue this issue through legal channels and support our athletes and even the Muslim athletes of other countries, such as the Algerian athlete who was recently banned," he added.
The Iranian Leader made explicit that “a proud Iranian athlete cannot shake hands with a representative of a criminal regime for a medal, thus practically recognizing it," highlighting that "this issue has a precedent."
“In the past, athletes from other countries refused to compete with the representatives of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and after a while, that regime collapsed, as will the Zionist regime," the Iranian leader concluded.
On the other hand, Saudi Judoka Tahani Al-Qahtani lost 11-0 to her Israeli counterpart Raz Hershko in the Olympic category of the Judo Women’s +78 kg.
The defeat came after a wave of criticism targeted the Saudi player for accepting to play against an Israeli opponent in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games.
Al-Qahtani's decision was backed by Saudi media and the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, an unprecedented event showcasing an irrefutable attempt at normalizing ties between Saudi Arabia and "Israel."
FC Barcelona cancels visit to the occupied lands
After many calls to refrain from visiting occupied Palestine to play a friendly match scheduled in July against Israeli club Beitar Jerusalem football club, FC Barcelona announced they would not face the Israeli club in occupied Al-Quds.
Before the announcement, Palestine’s Football Association sent Barca a letter saying Al-Quds is a contested city.
“According to international law, Jerusalem is a divided city, and its eastern part is considered occupied Palestinian land, which gives the Palestinian Football Association jurisdiction over any football activities that take place in this part,” the letter read.
The PFA’s boycott calls have been successful in the past few years. In 2018, Argentina’s national team canceled a friendly match with “Israel”, which the occupation had moved from Haifa to Al-Quds following PFA chairman Jibril Rajoub’s message to Lionel Messi saying: “We ask [Messi] not to participate in laundering the crimes of the occupation.”
Malaysia refuses to enter Israeli athletes
A major squash tournament in Malaysia has been canceled, the sport's governing body said after Malaysia sparked the Israeli occupation's anger by refusing to grant visas for the Israeli players.
The World Team Championship for men had been due to take place in Kuala Lumpur on December 7-12, with 26 squads participating, but the World Squash Federation (WSF) and Malaysia's squash body said it had been axed because the Southeastern Asian nation refused to issue visas for the Israelis.
WSF President Zena Wooldridge said sports officials had sought to "influence the highest authorities of Malaysia to ensure the ability of all participating teams, including "Israel", to enter Malaysia and compete."
For its part, the Israeli Squash Association threatened to turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland if the WSF could not convince Malaysia to retract its decision.
The WSF said the decision to cancel the event was also influenced by the new Omicron coronavirus variant, which it fears could affect travel to Malaysia.
The tournament was earlier this year moved to Malaysia from New Zealand because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
Malaysia stands with Palestine
Malaysia does not have diplomatic relations with the Israeli occupation.
In 2019, it was stripped of the right to host the World Para Swimming Championships for threatening to refuse Israeli athletes.
Similarly, it refused in 2015 to issue visas for Israeli windsurfers to participate in a championship on Langkawi Island.
Entry into the country on an Israeli passport is forbidden, as the Palestinian cause enjoys widespread support in Malaysia.
The country's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah confirmed that his country would not join "the train of normalization with the Zionist entity."
On its part, Hamas, through its Spokesperson Abdul Latif Al-Qanoua, expressed the Islamic Movement's appreciation for Malaysia's decision.
"Malaysia's refusal reflects the genuine stance against all forms of normalizing ties with the Israeli occupation and supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their steadfastness in the face of the occupation," Al-Qanoua affirmed.
He also called on all countries to boycott and oppose normalization with the Israeli occupation.
Scotland fined for booing Israeli anthem
For its part, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) was fined £8,024 ($10,786) by FIFA after some Scottish fans booed the Israeli occupation anthem during Scotland's match with the Zionist entity in a World Cup qualifier event.
The SFA was sanctioned for inappropriate “order and security at matches (disturbance during national anthems, use of objects – flag – to transmit a message that is not appropriate for a sports event)," according to FIFA's Disciplinary Code Article 16.
In addition, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstrators gathered outside the Hampden Park stadium in Glasgow and raised Palestinian flags and banners reading “Zionism is racism. Victory to the Intifada."
Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that unknown individuals spraypainted the phrases “Palestinian blood” and “Free Gaza” on the stadium’s walls.
In October, the Israeli football team was defeated by the Scottish team, 3-2, in Glasgow, Scotland in the European Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
These displays of solidarity are familiar to the Scottish public, notably the Celtic F.C. fans, who have always openly declared their support for the Palestinian cause by abundantly raising the flags of the occupied country in their stadium, all whilst chanting pro-Palestinian anthems.
This year also witnessed calls for boycotting sportswear manufacturer Puma for sponsoring the Israeli football association, which governs teams in illegal Israeli settlements, according to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Among the boycotters was Black Lives Matter UK, which announced their support for the Puma boycotting campaign.
It is noteworthy that more than 200 Palestinian clubs urged Puma to end its sponsorship of Israeli teams in illegal settlements.
Although some teams have been fined, and athletes lost their titles, championships, or competitions, they have won the medal of honor in humanity for boycotting the Israeli occupation and fighting normalization. These teams and athletes’ efforts are needed in the year 2022 more than ever amid the disgusting wave of normalization with “Israel”, especially by Arab regimes.