Monday, June 20, 2022

FIFA and Palestine: Regarding Injustice and Disregard for Justice


Issam Khalidi


  While I was reviewing documents I got from FIFA archive, one document attracted my attention. The correspondence was between Khader Kamal, Secretary of the Arab Sports Club in Jerusalem (established in 1927), and Dr. Shreiker, Secretary of the World Football Association FIFA.

In its memorandum sent to FIFA in 1946, the Arab Palestine Sports Federation made it clear that after revealing to FIFA that the Arabs are members in the Palestine Football Association which was founded in 1928 and joined FIFA in 1929. Later, the Jewish members of this PFA felt they were the majority in this association, they consequently started to marginalize the Arabs by denying the association’s regulations; by making the motto and the language of this association in Hebrew and making themselves the majority in this association. As a result, the Palestinian Sports Federation was founded by the Arabs, which had little chance of competing with PFA.

As a result, the Arab teams were not able to compete with their sister teams in other Arab countries because they were not part of the Palestinian Football Association. Due to the ceasing of its function in late 1930s the Palestine Sports Federation, the Arab teams applied to join the PFA. This step proved the weakness which surrounded the Arab teams resulted from the political situation at that time.

        The purpose of presenting this correspondence is to demonstrate the closeness of FIFA and PFA relations, as well as the disrespectful attitude FIFA had toward Arabs and its inferior view of them.


In a letter from Khader Kamal to Dr. Shreiker, Secretary of the World Football Association dated in November 18, 1937, hoping that this letter will receive FIFA’s attention:


   The Arab Sports Club have the honor to make the following representation to you, concerning their desire to play against teams from the neighboring countries:


     Palestine is now represented in the Football World Association, by a wholly Jewish team, although the Jews form only less than one third of the total population of the country, the overwhelming majority being Arabs. But owing to the exceptional and rather abnormal conditions in this country, the formation of a joint team of Arabs and Jews is well-nigh impossible. Particularly under the present circumstances. The Jews gained this representation, merely because they applied for it in advance, thus leaving the Arabs at a disadvantage, and preventing them from playing against recognized teams in neighboring countries, especially Egypt and the Lebanon. We hope, by this request, that the Arab Sports Club be recognized by the World Football Association, as an independent entity, as a special case on account of the peculiar political conditions in the majority in this country of Arabs, it remains entirely illogical to have the representation in wholly Jewish team.


  Later, Dr. Shreiker promised Khader Kamal he will submit his request to FIFA’s committee, and I will give him further news as soon as possible. [1] At the same time, he decided to keep Mr. J. Chalutz Secretary of Palestine Football Association informed about Khader’s letter, and asked the latter to give him a reply:


    I have received from the Arab Sports Club Secretary Mr. Khodder Alb.Kamal [Khader Abdallah Kamal] a letter in which Mr. Kamal asks for a permission to play against teams of neighbor countries specially Egypt and Libanon [Lebanon]; he underlines that it is impossible for them to join the Palestine Football Association under the present circumstances and by this reason he asks the above permission. I will have to submit this matter to my committee, but I beg you to let me have your opinion about this matter.  The only things which should be possible is that the Association of Egypt and Lebanon are informed by me that the Arab Sports Clubs with your permission is entitled to play with the teams of Egypt and Lebanon and that each be subject to a special permission of the F.I.F.A. [2]



  This is the message that stopped me and aroused my interest in its tone that indicates lack of respect and contempt towards Mr. Khader Kamal, which the Secretary of the International Federation used to express in his letter to Chalutz on May 4, 1938, and respect for the person of the Secretary of PFA, and FIFA’s keenness on the interest of PFA:


I am very interested to see from your letter that some of the Arab teams have applied for affiliation with your Association and that you have been pleased to approve such affiliation.

    I have sent you a copy of my letter to Mr. Khodder Alb. Kamal [Khader Kamal] and you will have been understood that I have given no recommendation at all to these gentlemen.

 I think the only possible way is that clubs of Egypt and Lebanon wanting to play against Arab clubs not affiliated to your Association should have asked you the permission to play such matches.

 If you agree that these matches can played, and you coming to your country should not play only against the Arab clubs but also against some clubs of your association. I think in this way your authority as National Association controlling football in Palestine is safe guarded because no match against a foreign club in Palestine can be played without your permission.

It is supposed that you inform me of every such permission given by you because of FIFA must know and authorize every encounter against non-affiliated organization.

I have no doubt that my committee will agree to give your Association the permission to authorize matches to be played in your territory against non-affiliated organizations.

I am enclosing a copy of my to-days reply to this gentleman [Khader Kamal].


    This is a fact that has been around for eighty-four years. Of course, Mr. Khader Kamal (whose relatives in Jerusalem I attempted to contact to find some information about him but were unable to do so) was not aware of the content of this letter, which remained in the FIFA archives for decades without anyone knowing about it. The Palestinian activist knocked on FIFA's door in good faith, respecting its president, its committee, and its laws. Did the Arabs not gain the respect of FIFA because they were devoted to their homeland, or because they were defending just causes and feeling frustrated by Zionist dominance?

  From European and international organizations, it is not surprising to see such positions that sanctified colonialism and helped pave the way for building the Jewish national home. Racist language and superior treatment of the "backward" East by the "civilized" West have always been present, treating the East as an inferior species not worthy of respect, but of contempt, and using that as an excuse to control its fate. In the West and its institutions, such as FIFA and others, these cultural and intellectual patterns towards the East in general and our Arab region in particular are still prevalent through the policy of hypocrisy, double standards, and the principle of “not mixing sports with politics.”




[1] FIFA Archive, 16th December 37

[2] FIFA Archive, 16th December 37

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