World soccer chief rejects request to ban Israel

The president of FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, expressed opposition to a Palestinian request to ban Israel from international competition.

On April 7, Sepp Blatter told the French news agency AFP that “such a situation shall not occur at the FIFA congress because suspension of a federation for any reason is always something which harms the whole organization.”

The Palestinian soccer group said last week that during next month’s FIFA Congress in Zurich, it will request the suspension of Israel from FIFA competition for “racist behavior against Arabs.” In past years, the Palestinian association has called for a ban on Israel several times, most recently last November after Israeli forces raided the association’s headquarters in Ramallah.

Blatter threatened to suspend Israel from international play in 2013 for excessive government interference in soccer. Israel heavily restricts travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the Palestinian association argues that it inhibits their athletes.

Israel cites safety reasons for its monitoring of West Bank travel. — jta