As the Euro’s pass the halfway stage, you could be forgiven for thinking that the game is still based on nationalism, the flag, my country right or wrong. So it’s worth highlighting the commitment to international solidarity of the workers you’re watching on the telly, and the actions of their unions in defending the principle that international football depends on being able to travel freely.
Yesterday, the Israeli authorities agreed to release Palestinian national footballer Mahmoud al-Sarsak on 10 July. He was arrested on 22 July 2009 at a checkpoint when he was on his way from Gaza to the West Bank for a match with his national team, and has never been charged. His release is conditional on ending a hunger strike he began 92 days ago, and the campaign for his release was transformed from a traditional pro-Palestinian lobby by the support for his case that came among others from FIFPro, the global footballers’ trade union, and football legends like Eric Cantona and key figures in the game like FIFA president Joseph Blatter and UEFA’s president Michel Platini.
FIFPro’s secretary general Theo van Seggelen said:
“This is great news. We hope that Mahmoud al-Sarsak will soon return back to full fitness. FIFPro is looking forward to the day he can play football again, as a free man.”
Last year FIFPro, which already has an affiliate in Israel, as well as Egypt, paid two visits to Palestine to visit footballers, to talk about their problems and to talk about the establishment of a professional footballers’ association in Palestine. Britain’s FIFPro affiliate is the Professional Footballers’ Association, a TUC affiliate.