Skip to main content

Soccer stars protest Gaza bombing

December 7, 2012 -- Updated 2021 GMT (0421 HKT)
Palestine Stadium in Gaza City was bombed by the Israeli airforce last month during a conflict with the territory's ruling Hamas party. Palestine Stadium in Gaza City was bombed by the Israeli airforce last month during a conflict with the territory's ruling Hamas party.
HIDE CAPTION
Stadium bombed
Fight for statehood
Teenage players killed
<<
<
1
2
3
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Top footballers protesting against Israel hosting of tournament
  • Players sign petition asking UEFA to move European Under-21 event from Tel Aviv
  • World football's governing body FIFA plans to help rebuild damaged stadium

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that 60 players, including Didier Drogba, had signed the petition. The petition on December 6 had 52 signatories, not including Drogba.

(CNN) -- A group of soccer stars have called for Israel to be stripped of hosting rights for a top European age-grade tournament next year following last month's bomb attacks on Gaza.

52 players, including Eden Hazard, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba signed a petition which was posted on the website of former English Premier League and Spanish La Liga striker Fredi Kanoute.

"We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom," the statement said.

"The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world's conscience."

American soccer star playing for Palestine

Palestinian statehood about identity
Palestinians push for U.N. status
A Gaza Doctor's Journey
Iran continuing to arm Hamas?

It cited reports of a bomb attack by Israeli forces on a football stadium in Gaza on November 10, which killed four teenage players, and said that two players from the club Al Amari had been detained in Israel "without charge or trial" since February.

"It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values," the statement said.

CNN has found no evidence that anyone was killed while playing football. But on November 10 as reported by CNN, four Palestinians were killed when Israeli tank fire hit a building east of Gaza City where mourners were gathered for a funeral, according to Palestinian medical sources. Israel said militants were targeted at several sites after an Israeli Defense Patrol came under attack, wounding four soldiers.

The statement on Kanoute's site adds: "Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge."

Tel Aviv will host the European Under-21 Championship next June, when eight nations will compete in Israel.

European football's governing body UEFA has already rejected calls to move the tournament from pro-Palestine groups including the disputed territory's football association.

Refugee United: Palestinians debut at Homeless World Cup

"UEFA is an apolitical organization and (Israel) earned the right to host this competition through a fair, democratic vote," UEFA president Michel Platini said in June.

"I am sure that it will be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together."

World football's governing body FIFA also says it does not interfere in countries' political affairs, but said it would help rebuild the stadium in Gaza -- as it did in 2006 following a similar attack.

"We see it our mandate to rebuild football infrastructure which has been destroyed," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said last week.

"Football brings people together and we will support any reconstruction necessary when football infrastructure is destroyed through disasters."

Palestine: A national soccer team without a nation

Valcke's statement was criticized by Israeli media, which reported that the stadium was used by Hamas militants to fire rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Palestine's bid for recognition was boosted last week when the U.N. general assembly voted to upgrade its status to that of a non-member observer state -- a move which was opposed by Israel and the U.S.

"We came to the United Nations not to confront the U.S. and not to isolate Israel or to discriminate Israel. We came to preserve the two-state solution," Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN's Piers Morgan.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Football Club
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
Dutch football team head coach Louis van Gaal (L) and Dutch's assistant coach Patrick Kluivert (R) look on before a friendly football match between Belgium and Netherlands in Brussels on August 15, 2012.
Should the Manchester United board have insisted upon a more radical overhaul of the club's football operation when Alex Ferguson stepped down?
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Sunday Oliseh plays for NIgeria at the 1998 World Cup in France.
When Sunday Oliseh was a young boy, he never dreamed he would one day carry the hopes of 170 million people on football's biggest stage.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
The 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, which claimed 96 lives, brought the red and the blue halves of Liverpool together.
CNN's Don Riddell says the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the families of the 96 victims and the survivors.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The Champions league trophy stands on show during the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions league at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two European heavyweights will collide in the Champions League semifinals after Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were drawn together in Switzerland.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
In a city where football is a religion, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is fast becoming a deity.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
Neymar
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
February 1, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
ADVERTISEMENT