THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — A Dutch soccer team is facing criticism for playing in Abu Dhabi despite the emirate’s refusal to let in the team’s Israeli defender.
Two Dutch politicians and several media criticized the team Vitesse from Arnhem over the weekend for agreeing to play in Abu Dhabi despite the refusal Saturday to let Dan Mori into the country for matches against two German teams.
In a statement on Monday, Israel’s embassy in the Hague wrote, “Such discrimination in sports is regrettable when sports should be beyond politics.”
The statement added that Arnhem club “pursued actions that fly in the face of the basic principles of international sports such as non-discrimination, moral conduct and sportsmanship.”
Geert Wilders, leader of the rightist, pro-Israel Party for Freedom, on Sunday called the team cowardly on his Twitter account.
“Vitesse shouldn’t have gone to the United Arab Emirates to protest the refusal to let Mori in,” he wrote. “They are now accepting the emirates’ Jew-hate. Cowardly.”
Pieter Omtzigt, a lawmaker for the CDA party, told Dutch media on Monday that Vitesse should behave like Dutch lawmakers, who refuse to visit places that try to dictate the makeup of parliamentary delegations.
Ester Bal, communications director for Vitesse, said the team “stays away from politics and religion. We have always done this. We are a soccer club.”
Management said in a statement that the decision to go to Abu Dhabi was made because “the team had obligations and wanted to prepare to the best of our abilities for future matches.”
Esther Voet, director of the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, was quoted on Monday by the RTL news broadcaster as saying that Abu Dhabi “walked all over Vitesse, which should have had the team spirit not to go without Mori.”
In January 2010, Hamas operative Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh was assassinated in the neighboring Saudi emirate of Dubai in an operation that involved two people dressed in tennis outfits and several other operatives.
Israel, which was widely seen as responsible for the killing, never confirmed or denied its involvement.