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As planned, and above all as promised to Palestinian footballers, a FIFPro delegation went to the West Bank to meet all those involved in professional football there, together with them to lay the foundations for the creation of a players’ union in Palestine.

 

‘Since the visit to Ramallah last November by Philippe Piat (our vice-president), Theo van Seggelen (our secretary general) and Stéphane Saint-Raymond (a member of our communications committee), followed a few weeks later with the undertaking exceptionally decided on by our board to make the Palestinian footballers’ union an official member of FIFPro as soon as it is created – whereas it normally takes several years to pass through the preliminary stages – we knew our meeting was inevitable, for FIFPro has a habit of keeping its promises. Especially when, as here, urgency is paramount!’

 

Such was the message hammered home by Frederique Winia, secretary general of FIFPro Division Asia, at the three meetings held in the West Bank (one at Hebron in the South, the second at Ramallah in the centre, and the last at Tulkarem, in the North) in the presence of players and executives, representing virtually all of Palestine’s professional clubs.

 

Yet again, the lack of freedom of movement imposed on footballers - and, in general, on all Palestinian sportsmen and sportswomen - particularly shocked the FIFPro delegation: ‘This is one of the fundamental rights of every citizen, and it’s also written down in the FIFA statutes and Regulations. The fact that some footballers cannot play where they want, when they want, that they cannot defend their country’s colours, that they are forbidden to see their family, their friends, this is perfectly unacceptable for us, as men, as sportspersons, as trade unionists. We don’t yet know how, but obviously, since you have expressed the wish to form an association and join FIFPro, we are going to help you’, Stéphane Saint-Raymond, the second member of the delegation, assured them.

 

Drafting the statutes for the coming union has already been entrusted to a lawyer specializing in sports law, and it has everywhere been very positively welcomed by the players, as by the Federation and by club executives.

 

‘We are not going to create a dummy union in Palestine: that is not the FIFPro style’, declared Frederique Winia. ‘Going beyond the struggle for freedom of movement, we shall work with the representatives of Palestinian footballers when they have been elected, and in consultation with all parties, we shall work to improve the working conditions of players and defend their rights and interests.’

 

‘But we have clearly understood that, as FIFPro does elsewhere, we too shall have to play our part in professionalizing our game of football, which at present is still in its infancy. We have well understood, for example, that the economic model that has prevailed for the last two years appears to have come up against its limits. We shall not stop at these first impressions, but we shall seek, on good terms with the Federation, to familiarize ourselves with the economic realities and the consequences for players.’

 

 

 

 

Photo captions:
1: At Hebron, for a kick-off.
2: At Ramallah, where the FIFPro delegation again met Ahmad Kashkash, who plays for Al Amaari and captains the national team, and whom we got to know on our first visit last November.
3: Third and last meeting, at Tulkarem, in the northern part of the West Bank.