FAI considering hosting solidarity match between Palestine and League of Ireland team

CEO Jonathan Hill: ‘We have had an approach in relation to that...the conversation has moved to whether it can be a LOI team’

The FAI are considering a solidarity match between Palestine and a League of Ireland selection or club.

“We have had an approach in relation to that,” Jonathan Hill, the FAI chief executive, confirmed during the Joint-Oireachtas Public Accounts hearing. “There has been an email interchange, first of all, in terms of the difficulties of that being a possibility at national team level.

“I think that has been accepted, in relation to very strict international windows, so the conversation has moved to whether it can be a League of Ireland team.

“Discussions are ongoing, there are no dates,” said Hill. “Our League of Ireland department [under director Mark Scanlon] is looking at the logistics.”


It is unclear whether a League of Ireland XI or specific club would face Palestine around their two World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh in March.

Bohemians FC were in advanced talks with the Palestine football federation to host the occupied state at Dalymount Park.

Bohs have charitable links to supplying children in Gaza with football gear, and they still hope to organise a game against Palestinian opposition.

At the hearing in Leinster House, John Brady TD asked Hill why the Republic of Ireland girls under-17s are playing Israel tomorrow in Albania when Israel have “butchered 30,000 men, women and children” in Palestine.

Both Hill and FAI president Paul Cooke responded that it’s a Uefa decision to allow Israel to continue playing in European competitions despite the ongoing war in Gaza.

“There is a level of hypocrisy there” said Brady as Russia and Belarus were banned from all football competition after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, “yet the FAI have not voiced concerns to Uefa over Israel in Gaza.”

Earlier this month, Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis ruled out a similar ban on Israel to what is currently in place against the Russian football federation, following a formal request from 12 nations including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates to “take a decisive stand against the atrocities committed in Palestine and the war crimes in Gaza”.

“There was no such discussion or such intention from the Uefa administration,” said Theodoridis. “They are two completely different situations between the two countries. Don’t forget the start of the war in Russia and Ukraine and the start of what is happening now – which is regrettable, of course – in the Middle East.”

Within 48 hours of the Polish and Swedish football associations refusing to play Russia in World Cup playoffs in February 2022, Fifa and Uefa suspended all Russian club and national teams.

“The recent women’s basketball match with Israel, in my mind, should not have gone ahead,” said Brady, the Sinn Féin spokesman for youth and integration. “Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan said boycotting a match with Israel ‘would not make a blind bit of difference. What it will do is destroy our women’s international game for 10 years.’ So there seems to be huge levels of hypocrisy there in terms of what positions are being adopted.

“The Government gave some guidelines in relation to Russia but there are double standards at play in terms of Sport Ireland and the FAI. I think that is regrettable.”

Israel has been a member of Uefa since 1991, after being excluded from the Asian Football Confederation in 1974 when Kuwait and North Korea refused to play them. Two Israeli clubs, Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv, the latter managed by former Irish international Robbie Keane, are competing in this season’s Europa Conference League.

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Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent