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Footballers call for Israel boycott

DESTROYED: Drogba has called for Israel to face consequences for bombing Gaza's stadium

A COALITION of leading footballers has put their signatures to a petition calling for Israel to be stripped of the privilege of hosting the Under 21 European Championship next summer.

Over 60 professional footballers, including Didier Drogba, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Newcastle’s Papiss Cissé, Demba Ba and Cheikh Tioté, signed the petition that was uploaded onto the personal website of former Tottenham striker Fredi Kanoute, who currently plays for Chinese Super League team Beijing Guoan.

“We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom. The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world's conscience”, read the petition’s statement.

“We are informed that on 10 November 2012 the Israeli army bombed a sports stadium in Gaza, resulting in the death of four young people playing football, Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara, 16 and 17 years old; Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi, 18 years old.

“We are also informed that since February 2012 two footballers with the club Al Amari, Omar Rowis, 23, and Mohammed Nemer, 22, have been detained in Israel without charge or trial.

“It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the Uefa Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values.

“Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge.”

CAMPAIGNER: Kanoute started the petition on his own website

The tournament is scheduled to begin next June with eight countries competing in host city Tel Aviv.

Uefa has had to previously rule out calls for the championship to be moved elsewhere.

Earlier in June, Uefa president Michel Platini said: “Uefa is an apolitical organisation and [Israel] earned the right to host this competition through a fair, democratic vote.

“I am sure that it will be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together.”

Fifa also confirmed its apolitical stance, but said it would help reconstruct the Gaza stadium, which it did in 2006 after Israel bombed the territory.

Last week, Jerome Valcke, Fifa secretary general, said: “We see it our mandate to rebuild football infrastructure which has been destroyed.

“Football brings people together and we will support any reconstruction necessary when football infrastructure is destroyed through disasters.”

Israeli media criticised Valcke’s words, for they reported the stadium was utilised by Hamas military units to fire rockets at Israeli targets.

Last week also saw Palestine’s quest for independent statehood improved by the UN general assembly’s decision to vote on upgrading its UN membership from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state.” A move which Israel and the US voted against, but the UK abstained from.

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