Skip to main content

Soccer stars protest Gaza bombing

updated 3:21 PM EST, Fri December 7, 2012
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
updated 9:48 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
updated 12:22 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
updated 10:11 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
updated 8:47 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
updated 6:41 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.
ADVERTISEMENT