Pirates dilemma exposes SA’s and football’s hypocrisy


Orlando Pirates team under pressure to boycott Israeli champions

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – PLANS by local football side, Orlando Pirates, to play Israeli side, Maccabi Tel Aviv, has thrown South Africa’s stance against Israel into a quandary.

Pirates, the former African champions, are scheduled to play their opponents on Thursday as part of preparations for the upcoming Premiership season.

The 23-time domestic champions Maccabi Tel Aviv is denounced as representing apartheid and racism.

In addition, South Africa has continued publicly to criticise Israeli actions and expressed solidarity with Palestine in the conflict between the latter two.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) has urged Pirates to reconsider its stance and withdraw from playing the Israeli side in the pre-season friendly match.

SACP, a member of the tripartite alliance ruling South Africa, said this would be in solidarity with the people of Palestine, who have been under apartheid occupation and oppression by the Israeli regime since 1967.

“On behalf of the SACP, I will ask for an urgent meeting with Orlando Pirates FC to discuss this important call,” Solly Mapaila, SACP General Secretary, said.

SACP’s call follows similar sentiments by among others the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

SACP is part of the ruling alliance alongside the governing African National Congress (ANC) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

By insisting that it will fulfil the fixture, Pirates have thrown the alliance a curve ball. It has exposed the double standards by South Africa on geopolitical issues.

There is currently limited political and diplomatic interaction between South Africa and Israel in almost two decades.

South Africa claims a non-aligned stance on such conflicts. However, while it has publicly denounced Israel and expressed solidarity with Palestine, it has refused to denounce Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, claiming neutrality.

It presents a poser for South Africa as it enjoys solid relations with Russia and both are members of the BRICS grouping, alongside Brazil, India and China.

“Whereas it is easy for those that have taken sides and adopted causes to make calls and demands, we do not enjoy such latitude,” Pirates stated.

“Solutions we seek need to be inclusive and arrived at through putting heads together rather than apart,” the football club added.

The double standards of the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) also come to the fore.

While FIFA suspended Russia and teams from the country from international competition following the conflict with Ukraine, similar action has not been taken against Israel, whose men’s national team is ranked 75th and the women’s 68th.

South Africa itself was banned in 1961 to 1992 amid international outcry against the apartheid regime.

Pirates pointed out there is no cultural boycott or boycott of any form by either the South African government, FIFA or the host country (Spain, where the fixture is scheduled) that it can base its refusal to play against Maccabi Tel Aviv on.

“Heeding a call from any other body would create a conflict within Orlando Pirates that would undermine the club’s values and history irreparably,” the Soweto football giant stated.

The lobby group, South African Friends of Israel, said it was standing strong with Pirates as they continue to show that sport knows no borders.

“Their decision to proceed with the match against Maccabi Tel Aviv, despite the unsurprising noise from a divisive few, is a testament to the power of unity and sportsmanship,” it said.

“We stand with Orlando Pirates, who have a right to play against Maccabi Tel Aviv and test their skills against the Jewish and Arab players from the Israeli team. This match is a win for South African sport, and Israeli-South Africa relations.”

Former South African president, Nelson Mandela (now late), famously said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

– CAJ News












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