Israel to host 2013 under-21 soccer championships

UEFA ignores calls to ban Jewish State, says sporting organization is ‘apolitical’

Image capture of players on Israel's under-21 national team celebrating a goal from a YouTube video.
Image capture of players on Israel's under-21 national team celebrating a goal from a YouTube video.

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — UEFA has ignored calls to strip Israel of hosting rights for the 2013 European Under-21 Championship to punish the Israeli authorities’ decision to hold three Palestinian footballers without trial.

UEFA President Michel Platini wrote to Israel Football Association President Avi Luzon on Monday to confirm the country will stage the 2013 tournament from June 15-28 despite “a certain amount of pressure being put on us.”

“UEFA is an apolitical organization and your association earned the right to host this competition through a fair, democratic vote,” Platini wrote. “I am sure that it will be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together.”

On Monday, the most prominent of the footballers, Mahmoud Sarsak, agreed to end a hunger strike in return for his freedom.

Last week, Palestine Football Association President Jibril Rajoub urged UEFA to remove Israel as host.

Platini also wrote a letter to Rajoub arguing that the Israel Football Association cannot be held responsible for the actions of other authorities.

“Avi Luzon is an open man who values dialogue but, as you know, he has no decision-making power in this matter and he cannot be held responsible for anything whatsover in this regard,” Platini wrote.

A number of high-profile football personalities have backed Rajoub’s call, including former Manchester United star Eric Cantona and ex-West Ham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute.

In his letter to Rajoub, Platini also said he was surprised to read in the media about a letter Rajoub had written to him regarding Sarsak’s situation.

“I must just say that I consider it unfortunate and misplaced to make a letter public before it has even reached the person to who it is addressed,” Platini wrote. “I think you were ill advised on the approach to take.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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