Skip to main content

Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem criticized after UAE bans Israeli player

By Leone Lakhani, CNN
updated 10:07 AM EST, Tue January 7, 2014
Israeli footballer Dan Mori had urged Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem to go ahead with the UAE trip.
Israeli footballer Dan Mori had urged Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem to go ahead with the UAE trip.
  • 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

(CNN) -- 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.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott out with ACL injury
Portugal remembers football legend Eusebio
Footballer fights back after cancer

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

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.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
How Real Madrid's new stadium will look
They splash the cash on the world's best players, now Real Madrid are giving the Bernabeu the same treatment with a bling makeover.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
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.