NO EMBARGO: Saturday 1st June 2013
PALESTINIAN FOOTBALLER PRESENTS HEARTS/HIBS RIVALS4CHARITY TROPHY AT TYNECASTLE AS CALLS INCREASE TO PREVENT ISRAEL HOSTING THE UEFA U21 CHAMPIONSHIPS
A Palestinian national footballer who had last year been on the verge of death after a three-month hunger strike was back to fitness on Saturday as he presented Hibs with the Edinburgh Rivals4Charity trophy at Tynecastle after their 3:0 defeat of Hearts.
Mahmoud Sarsak had been a leading player in the Palestinian team before he was arrested and jailed for three years without charge by Israel in 2009, but had lost half his body weight when he was eventually released after an international outcry over his treatment. Calls on Israel by the likes of football legend Eric Cantona, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, and campaign groups Amnesty International and Show Racism the Red Card to either charge Sarsak or release him added to the pressure on Israel to unconditionally release the player in July last year.
While Sarsak was released however, other Palestinians, including footballers and other sports teams remain in Israeli jails without charge or trial.
Sarsak is currently touring the UK to highlight the growing campaign to convince UEFA to reverse its plan to allow Israel to host the upcoming Under-21 European football championships. The player has support from the likes of Frederic Kanoute and anti-apartheid legend Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who were amongst a range of dignitaries who recently told UEFA that it should not be “rewarding Israel's cruel and lawless behaviour by granting it the honour of hosting the European Under-21 finals next month.”
After Israel destroyed Gaza’s national stadium in December last year, FIFA’s Sepp Blatter appeared to indicate that Israel’s hosting of the tournament could be in doubt, telling the BBC’s World Service: “football stadiums being bombed in Gaza and then hosting… being allowed to host a tournament don’t quite fit together.” Although Blatter vowed to ensure the rebuilding of the bombed stadium however, indications are that UEFA has thus far not reversed its plans to allow Israel to host the championships.
Tournament organisers said that they were honoured that Mahmoud had taken time out to present the medals at the charity event. Scott Moncrieff said “Scotland is trying hard to eradicate racism from our terraces, and clearly Mahmoud’s campaign deserves the support of anti-racists everywhere.”
Sarsak will be promoting his anti-racist campaign at a range of open public meetings throughout Scotland, including in Edinburgh’s Quaker Meeting House at 7pm on Tuesday 11th June. Details of other venues are available on the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Website: www.scottishpsc.org.uk.
Photos, free to use here: http://tinyurl.com/Sarsak-UK-tour
Notes for editors:
1. The Scottish
2. Details of the Edinburgh Rivals charity match can be found here:
3. Letter from Tutu etc. to UEFA calling on it to relocate the Under-21 European finals away from Israel:
The Guardian, UEFA insensitivity to Palestinians' plight, 27th May 2013
4. FIFA statement urging an end to Israel’s “Alleged illegal detainment of Palestine football players” including Sarsak, 12 June 2012:
5. Eric Cantona and Amnesty International on Palestinian detainees including Sarsak:
Ooh Ahh: Cantona calls for release of Palestinian footballer, 13 June 2012
6. Show Racism the Red Card on Sarsak:
7. FIFA’s Sepp Blatter on the bombing of Gaza’s football stadia and his questioning of Israel chances of hosting the U21 championships:
8. Details of public Meetings by Sarsak in Scotland can be found here:
Sun June 2 Reception for Mahmoud at Fatma Restaurant, 6.00pm www.fatma.co.uk
Tues June 4 Stop the JNF protest at Cowan's Law - all day
Thurs June 6 Inverness - Spectrum Centre 7.30
Fri June 7 Aberdeen - Quaker Meeting Hall 7.30pm
Sat June 8 Glasgow - details from Matt 07919 963 764
Mon June 10 Dundee - Dundee Community Centre, Guthrie Street 7.30pm
Tues June 11 Edinburgh - Quaker Meeting Hall, Victoria Terr 7.00 for 7.30pm
Wed June 12 Stirling - Raploch Community Centre
Thurs June 13 Falkirk - St Francis Xavier Church Hall 7.00 for 7.30pm
Fri June 14 Fife - Sarsak hosted by Fife Arab Society, 3.30pm
Sat June 15 Glasgow - joint activity with Lajee group; football match fund-raiser
Sun June 16 Combruith Hostel, Comrie - SPSC residential weekend to participate in discussion on Palestinian prisoners and campaigning
9. Guardian, 6 June 2012, “Palestinian footballer's hunger strike sparks fears for his life”: