Chilean soccer jersey which ignited Palestine-Israel tensions banned

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Published On : Tue, Jan 21st, 2014

Primera División team Palestino fined and ordered to design a new shirt after map — showing Israeli territories as Palestinian — enrages Jewish community.

Chilean soccer jersey which ignited Palestine-Israel tensions banned

The club was founded by Palestinian immigrants, in a country which is home to half-a-million people of Palestinian descent. Photo via Club Deportivo Palestino / Facebook

Chile’s National Soccer Federation (ANFP) has banned a controversial soccer jersey worn by Primera División outfit Palestino. A fine was also imposed on the club after a court ruling confirmed that the shirt’s design broke both ANFP and International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) regulations.

A specially designed number “1” — in the shape of the Israel and Palestine territories — appeared on some kits after Palestino’s new 2014 jersey was unveiled in December. The shape of the digit caused uproar within the Jewish community, both in Chile and around abroad — representatives claimed the graphic implied all land in the disputed region was Palestinian and demanded action be taken.
The ANFP banned the shirt Monday on the grounds that the design of the map broke the soccer federation’s regulations relating to political, racial and social discrimination.

Palestino club President Fernando Aguad made a statement after the ruling, clarifying that the club accepted the decision and no appeal will be made.

However, he was quick to point out that the ANFP does not specifically prohibit the use of the pre-1947 Palestinian map on shirt designs.

“It is clear there are no rules against using the ancient map of Palestine on sportswear,” Aguad told El Mercurio. “We are going to design a new shirt with complete liberty to include the territory of, and any symbols relating to, Palestine.”

Samy Telias of Chile’s Zionist publication Revista Shalom explained why the Jewish community are opposed to the use of the map of Palestine which dates back to before the United Nations voted on the partition of the region in 1947.

“If the current map of Israel changes as a result of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine in the future, this will be extraordinary for all,” he told The Santiago Times. “But the map must be respected on all levels as it exists today — this is why the shirt has been banned.”

Executive director of the Chilean Jewish Community (CJC), Marcelo Isaacson, told The Santiago Times that the Jewish community was satisfied with both the court ruling and the ANFP intervention.

“We are happy and pleased to see the soccer federation enforcing regulations,” he said. “It is important that the rules remain in place to prevent organizations from using sport to make political statements.”

Isaías Wassermann Stoulman, head of public affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Chile, also backed the court’s decision to penalise Palestino.

“As we have said from the beginning, allowing Palestino to use the map on the back of the club’s shirts would be denying the existence of Israel,” he told The Santiago Times.

Offence taken, action demanded

The shirt was worn on three outings by Palestino players — against Everton, Universidad de Chile and Santiago Wanderers — and earlier this month Chilean Jewish Community (CJC) President Gerardo Gorodischer wrote on Twitter that he expected Chilean soccer’s governing body to act accordingly.

“We expect sanctions by Chile’s National Soccer Federation (ANFP) on Palestino for breach of FIFA rules,” he said via Twitter.

Three days after the shirt first debuted Jan. 4 against Primera División rival Everton, Itzhak Shoham, director general for the Latin American branch of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry, acted. He summoned the trade representative from the Chilean Embassy in Israel to express his “surprise and concern” over the new uniform.

“While Israel is striving to generate a positive environment to advance towards a two-state solution, it seems inappropriate to use sport for political ends,” Shoham said following the meeting, adding that the Israeli government hoped for a quick intervention by local sporting authorities to repair the issue.

The ANFP imposed the ban Monday, prohibiting Palestino from wearing the shirt and issuing a fine of US$1,300 on the Santiago-based club. The ruling outlined the conditions of the veto.

“The financial penalty must be paid within three days of being enforced under Article 46 of ANFP bylaws,” the ruling stated. “The ANFP prohibits any form of political, religious, ethnic, racial or social discrimination.”

Palestino must also redesign the shirts, replacing the map of the Israel and Palestine with the universally recognised numeral for “1.”

Patrick Kiblisky Fried, president of fellow Primera División side Ñublense, filed a complaint against Palestino in a bid to get the shirt banned.

“I denounce Palestino for violating Chile’s Football Federation regulations,” Kiblisky Fried, who is Jewish, wrote in a complaint to the ANFP. “We cannot accept the involvement of football with politics and religion.”

Not only did the court find Palestino’s use of the map a violation of Article 46 of the ANFP competition rules, but also ruled that the numeral was the incorrect size — breaking Article 36, which states digits used on shirts must be 9.8 inches in height.

Maximiliano Grass, director of the Chile Israel Council, explained to the The Santiago Times that he believes Palestino displayed the map to stir up trouble in the Jewish community.

“I think that the ban which has been imposed is appropriate because Palestino was using football as a platform to spread a political message,” he said. “The Palestinian and Jewish communities should be talking more about what we have in common as opposed to our differences. The soccer federation acted correctly because I am certain that Palestino used the image of the map to provoke the Jewish community.”

Chile is home to an estimated 500,000 people of Palestinian descent — believed to be the largest Palestinian population outside of the Middle East.

Palestino was founded on Aug. 20, 1920, by a group of Palestinian immigrants. The team plays in the colors of the Palestinian flag — red, black, white and green — and has twice been crowned champions of Chile’s Primera División, in 1955 and 1978.

Palestino’s next match will be on Jan. 26 against Universidad de Concepción. The team will meet Ñublense on April 13.

By George Nelson (nelson@santiagotimes.cl)
Additional reporting by Consuelo Fernanda Laclaustra (consuelo@santiagotimes.cl)
Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times

About the Author

George Nelson
George is the Deputy Editor of The Santiago Times and writes on social issues, art, and sport. He has worked as a freelance reporter in the U.S., UK, and Argentina for publications including the Buenos Aires Herald, Argentina Independent, and Vice. Contact him at nelson@santiagotimes.cl