The war in the Middle East divides South American football: Israel wants to play the Copa América and Palestine plays the Libertadores

Hours before Iran’s drone attack on Israel, the Hebrew country’s football federation signed an agreement with Conmebol, the confederation in charge of organizing the America Cup and the Libertadores Cup (the equivalent of the European Champions League). The Israeli team, which has once again been left out of the Euro Cup, wants to play the first competition, while the second competes Chilean Palestinian CDthe pioneering professional team of the Palestinian community in the world.

They are two derivations of the geopolitics of football, a sport that amplifies messages and is a thermometer of the situation. Following orders from the Ministry of the Interior, the Israel Football Association (IFA) announced early on Sunday that suspended grassroots football matches, but maintained those of the first division qualifiers, as well as the semifinals of the women’s cup. These matches are played without an audience.

Matches without fans “to avoid concentrations”

“To avoid unnecessary risks and allow security forces to prepare optimally, we have decided to suspend grassroots football matches. The rest will be without public to avoid concentrations. I have faith that soon we will return to activity without restrictions. I hope it will be a good week for all the citizens of Israel,” said Shino Zoertz, president of the IFA, who is in charge of signing the strategic agreement with Conmebol.

A member of the Maccabi Haifa coaching staff shows an Israeli flag in the Conference League match against Fiorentina. / EFE

On the other side was Alejandro Domínguez, president of the South American Football Confederation. Both recognized that the pact was “a historic moment” and “of international progress”, in the case of Israel. The ultimate objective of the Hebrew team is to compete in the Copa América, which this summer will experience its 48th edition in the US. Initially, this tournament only pitted ten teams from the south of the continent, but it has been expanding.

The six best Concacaf teams (North America and Central America) will be in the imminent event, but other Asian teams such as Qatar and Japan. Geographically, Israel is also a combination of this continent. In fact, it was a member of the AFC (Asian confederation) until 1974, when the Arab-Israeli conflict began, and it hosted the 1964 Asian Cup, which it won. It is the first and only great international success of the senior team, which from 1994 would be a full member of UEFA. Before that, he competed in qualifying phases for the OFC (Oceania).

Israel, selection in progress, but without great achievements

Therefore, if it achieves its goal of competing in the Copa América, Israel would have played tournaments involving four confederations, something that only federations like Australia come close to, which decided to compete with Asia to have more demanding duels. Due to the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions by FIFA or UEFA, some Russian national teams have recently played tournaments in Asia. However, the firm purpose of the Russian Federation is that both their national teams and teams compete in Europe again.

A Kosovo-Israel match from the qualifying phase for Euro 2024. / / EFE

For Israel, the movement is also based on a need to compete against other teams. They have never qualified for a European Championship and have only reached the final phase of a World Cup, Mexico 1970. However, The lower categories have been doing a good job. in European and senior tournaments is also in clear progress. He was the leader of his group in the last Nations League, which allowed him to move up a division. For the next edition 2024/2025 it is framed in A2 with Italy, Belgium and France.

The team led by Alon Hazan reached the playoffs of Euro 2024 in Germany. They were eliminated against Iceland (1-4) in a match that was played in Budapest. Israel lost its local status due to the instability caused by the conflict with Palestine, which forced the match to be played in Budapest (Hungary).

Despite the good understanding shown by the IFA and Conmebol, if the Copa América were to be played Israel could face countries with which it has bad relations. After the attacks on Gaza, Bolivia broke relations with the Jewish state, as Venezuela did in the past, while Chile and Colombia called their ambassadors for consultations.

CD Palestino, “Palestine’s second selection”

This process happens while in the Copa Libertadores, also organized by Conmebol, the CD Palestino, a Chilean team founded in 1920 by a group of immigrants from this community. His role during the crisis has been very active in favor of the Palestinian cause. The team’s motto is ‘A Whole People’, its shirt, which has the colors of the flag of the Arab territory, has as its main sponsor the Bank of Palestinethe main financial entity in Palestine.

CD Palestino players pose before the match against Flamengo in the Copa Libertadores. / EFE

In response to the attacks on Gaza, the ‘Tino’ players, as this team is commonly known, wore a ‘kufiya’ (traditional scarf from the Middle East and Arabia) as they went out onto the field to support the people they consider the informal selection. The Palestinian community in Chile is the largest outside the Arab world, with 400,000 residents. The Palestino CD has been a national refuge for them. In fact, Al-Jazeera has the rights to the Copa Libertadores to follow the adventure of a club that has frequently provided players to a team that is experiencing one of its best moments.

The Chilean Camilo Saldaña, who came from the youth team of the Libertadores team, is a regular at the concentrations with Palestine. He is just one of the many examples of a team about which Mahmoud Abbas, former president of the Palestinian National Authority, said the following: ““We identify with Palestino as if it were the second national team of our people.”. Latin America as the scene of a match that has yet to be played and where both sides see football as a tool to advance their demands.

2024-04-14 12:13:48
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