The Ireland women’s basketball team has fulfilled its fixture against Israel despite calls for a boycott.
The game kicked off earlier today, February 8, as part of the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers. It was originally due to take place in Israel on November 9, 2023, but was postponed due to the ongoing war and moved to a neutral venue in Riga, Latvia.
Basketball Ireland has faced significant pressure in recent weeks to withdraw from the match, including from athletes like Kieran Donaghy who called on the governing body to “rethink and be strong”.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” he added.
The basketballer and Kerry footballer called it a “shame” that the players and coaching staff have been put in this position, and said “They have worked so hard to play at this level and represent their country and they do so with immense pride. This decision should not sit solely on their shoulders.”
Donaghy additionally criticised the FIBA for “letting a country committing genocide” compete, describing it as a “scandal in itself”.
Calls for a boycott also intensified when the Israeli team posed for photos with military personnel and firearms. Sharing the images on X, Irish Sport for Palestine wrote, “All smiles as the Israeli basketball team pose with the IDF war machine ahead of Thursday’s qualifier against Ireland.
“Defying public opinion, this is what Basketball Ireland and its CEO John Feehan have signed up to: Sports-washing Israeli genocide.”
All smiles as the Israeli basketball team pose with the IDF war machine ahead of Thursday’s qualifier against Ireland.
Defying public opinion, this is what Basketball Ireland and its CEO John Feehan have signed up to: Sports-washing Israeli genocide.
John Feehan says boycotting… pic.twitter.com/nLGYrJCfPt
— Irish Sport for Palestine (@Sport4Palestine) February 6, 2024
Feehan has had to defend the association’s position on multiple occasions, saying that the consequences of not fulfilling the fixture “would be ruinous to the women’s international programme”.
These comments came in addition to the official statement from Basketball Ireland, which read: “We are all very concerned about the events unfolding in Gaza and are extremely sympathetic to the dreadful situation that people are having to deal with.
“Since the conflict arose, Basketball Ireland has been in regular correspondence with FIBA Europe, where we have raised strong concerns about these fixtures with Israel, including the option to not play the games, however FIBA Europe is insistent that we fulfil the fixtures.”
It explained that “Basketball Ireland would be subject to a fine from FIBA Europe of up to €80,000 should we fail to fulfil the fixture with Israel in Riga next month. An additional fine of up to €100,000 would also be levied should we not play the return fixture later this year.
“Basketball Ireland would also be removed from FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers and also barred from competing in the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2027 Qualifiers, resulting in an effective 5-year ban from competing at international level for our senior women’s team.”
The statement concluded, saying, “Basketball Ireland has listened to and understands everyone’s views around this fixture with Israel, including those of our players, staff, the basketball community and external bodies and a decision to play has been carefully considered. We have also been in correspondence with the Department for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Government Ministers and Sport Ireland around this fixture.
“As it stands, FIBA Europe has not excluded Israel from competing internationally – nor have any other European sporting federations – and as such Basketball Ireland remains obliged to fulfil the fixture on February 8th.”
While the association chose not to withdraw, it is reported that five unnamed players refused to travel with the team.
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The Israeli squad has also responded to the boycott campaign, with the head coach Sharon Drucker saying that the Irish “did not respect” what sport symbolises. Additionally, player Dor Sa’ar said “It’s known that (the Irish) are quite anti-Semitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected.
“We have to show that we’re better than them and win. We talk about it among ourselves, we know they don’t like us and we will leave everything on the field always and in this game especially,” she added.
Basketball Ireland refuted the accusations of anti-semitism, calling them “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate,” and confirmed it has raised the matter with FIBA Europe. As a result of the comments, the organisation also confirmed that Irish players would not take part in traditional pre-match arrangements with their opponents, including exchanging of gifts and formal handshakes, and would line up for the national anthem at the bench rather than centre court.
Statement ahead of today’s FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifier. pic.twitter.com/iz6s88febf
— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) February 8, 2024
Since the Hamas attacks on October 7, Israel’s military has reportedly killed almost 28,000 people in the Gaza Strip. In a recent development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’ proposed ceasefire terms, saying “total victory” in Gaza is possible within months.
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