Players of Ireland’s national women's team who were matched with Israel in the EuroBasket qualifier match in Riga on Thursday refused to shake hands with the Israeli players before the match amid the war in Gaza. Additionally, the Irish players didn’t step onto the court for the players' introduction, but remained near the substitutes' bench.
The match has become the most charged and controversial issue in European women's basketball in recent weeks. Both games in the Israeli team’s previous window (one of them against Ireland) were postponed due to the outbreak of the war in Gaza, with the Basketball Ireland association claiming they did everything possible to avoid playing the two matches against Israel.
Public pressure in the country has also intensified in recent days - to the point that the Irish national team, which has never qualified for the EuroBasket made headlines in the country's sports news.
As a result, five players from the Irish national team decided to boycott the game due to "the war in Gaza - and its consequences." Former star player, Rebecca O'Keefe even urged her fellow players "to follow suit" and criticized the Irish association by saying the players “should not have been put in such a situation at all."
On Wednesday, the head of the Irish Basketball Association John Feehan held a press conference where he argued that "boycotting the game would be ruinous to basketball in Ireland. What it will do is destroy our women’s international game for the next 10 years."
the Basketball Ireland association claimed that FIBA "forced" the Irish team to play Israel: "Basketball Ireland would be subject to a fine from FIBA Europe of up to €80,000 should we fail to fulfill the fixture with Israel in Riga next month. An additional fine of up to €100,000 would also be levied should we not play the return fixture later this year.”
Israeli basketball player Dor Saar, who will play in the women’s national team for the first time, added: It’s known that they are quite antisemitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected.”