Human rights groups in Ireland are calling on Irish national soccer team supporters to boycott a World Cup qualifying match against the Israeli national team.
The organizations asked fans to refrain from making the trip to Israel for the May 26 match, and have also asked the Irish Football Association to boycott the game entirely due to the political situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Irish national team fan club Chairman Alan Hunter said the Irish soccer association was never apprehensive about fighting for justice, but added that he welcomes the latest developments regarding the Arab-Israeli peace initiative.
“There is no reason to evoke fear, as long as the fans themselves are not afraid,” he said.
'Israel is not Yugoslavia'
Hunter mentioned that in 1999 Irish fans demanded the cancellation of a scheduled home game against Yugoslavia during that country’s invasion of Kosovo.
“It's not a good idea to bring politics into the football pitch, and, in any case, I don’t believe the fans will heed the call for a boycott,” he said. “One cannot compare Israel to Yugoslavia. The proportions are completely different.”
As of now, some 500 Irish fans are expected to arrive in Israel on board charter flights for the match. Some of the travel deals even include tours of Irish pubs in Israel.