Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem criticized after UAE bans Israeli player

Israeli footballer Dan Mori had urged Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem to go ahead with the UAE trip.

Story highlights

  • Vitesse Arnhem under pressure after its Israeli defender was not allowed entry to the UAE
  • Dutch club was told just a day before travelling to UAE that Dan Mori could not enter
  • UAE does not recognize Israel
  • Dutch club says it "had obligations" to the teams they were playing

A Dutch football club is facing criticism for playing in the United Arab Emirates, despite being told its Israeli defender would not be allowed in the country.

Vitesse Arnhem, second in the Dutch league, is in Abu Dhabi for training and matches with two German teams during its mid-season break.

The team's spokeswoman Esther Bal says the team was told just one day before the trip that defender Dan Mori could not enter the UAE.

Like most Arab countries, the UAE does not recognize Israel, and its immigration policies stipulate that Israeli citizens will be refused admission.

Still, Bal says planning for the trip began about six weeks ago and the team had been assured on the phone repeatedly that the 25-year-old Mori would be allowed to enter because he was an athlete.

No officials in the UAE could be reached for immediate comment.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott out with ACL injury
Arsenal's Theo Walcott out with ACL injury


    Arsenal's Theo Walcott out with ACL injury


Arsenal's Theo Walcott out with ACL injury 00:47
Portugal remembers football legend Eusebio
Portugal remembers football legend Eusebio


    Portugal remembers football legend Eusebio


Portugal remembers football legend Eusebio 01:56
Footballer fights back after cancer
Footballer fights back after cancer


    Footballer fights back after cancer


Footballer fights back after cancer 03:15

Esther Voet, director of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, told CNN "Vitesse should have had the team spirit not to go without Mori."

Over the weekend, two Dutch politicians also criticized the team for travelling to the UAE.

Geert Wilders, leader of the rightist Party for Freedom, called the team "cowardly" on his Twitter account.

"Vitesse did not have to go to the UAE to protest the refusal to let Mori in."

However, Bal told CNN, "We're a football club. We want to stay away from politics," adding that Mori himself, encouraged Vitesse to go ahead without him, "putting the team's interests first."

According to Bal, Vitesse was unable to pull out of the trip as would have affected the other teams.

"We were under pressure. We had obligations with the teams we're playing," said Bal.

Vitesse is playing German Bundesliga clubs Wolsfburg and Hamburg this week, before heading back to The Netherlands on Saturday.

On its return, Bal says the team will contact world governing body FIFA to evaluate the situation.

This is not the first time the UAE has come under pressure for stopping Israeli athletes from entering.

Last year, the English Premier League team, Swansea City, was told its Israeli player, Itay Shechter, could not go to Dubai for training. The club considered canceling their mid-season camp.

Israeli athletes have been allowed to attend international sporting events in the region, however. In October, Israeli contestants participated in the Swimming World Cup in Qatar, but images of the Israeli flag were omitted from parts of the competition.

In 2009, Shahar Peer was denied entry into the UAE for the Dubai Tennis Championship, but played in subsequent tournaments.

      Football Focus

    • French football great bids adieu

      After 20 years, more than 300 goals and a host of major honors, Thierry Henry has called time on his glittering football career.
    • Mario's 'Queen' tweet tops 2014 list

      He might be struggling to score goals for Liverpool, but Mario Balotelli's cheeky tweet about the British monarch hit the spot during the World Cup.
    • bpr south african soccor senzo meyiwa death _00000402.jpg

      Loss of a South African 'icon'

      Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
    • German alleged jihadist Kreshnik B (R) listens to his lawyer Mutlu Guenal (L) as he arrives at the higher regional court in Frankfurt. His face is pixelated for legal reasons.

      From Jewish football to ISIS suspect

      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.
    • Where has 'Super' Mario gone?

      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.
    • 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 rapist return to work?

      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?
    • Teen, 15, makes Euro history

      Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.