SportsIrish women's basketball team skips pre-match formalities with Israel amid Gaza conflict

Irish women's basketball team skips pre‑match formalities with Israel amid Gaza conflict

Photo from the Ireland vs Israel match
Photo from the Ireland vs Israel match
Images source: © Licensor | Oksana Dzadzan, Sportsfile via Getty Images

6:00 AM EST, February 9, 2024

On Thursday (02.08), the teams from Israel and South Ireland competed in the women's European Basketball Championship qualifiers. The Israeli team emerged victorious with a score of 87:57, but the international media spotlight was on the events predating the game commencement.

The Irish team decided to sing their national anthem on their sideline, as opposed to the usual center-court location. As a result, they abstained from the traditional pre-match exchange of handshakes with the opposing team.

This incident has a political undertone. It's worth noting that a severe armed conflict is underway in the Gaza Strip, which also impacts Israeli sports. This is evident in Thursday's fixture that was originally scheduled to take place in Israel but had to be shifted to Riga due to the ongoing turmoil in the Gaza Strip.

As reported by the BBC, the Irish Basketball Association considered boycotting the match. Nevertheless, according to Basketball Ireland General Director John Feehan, the federation would face sizable financial penalties, and the Irish team would risk being withdrawn from the competition if such action were taken. As a result, the match went ahead.

The actions of Basketball Ireland faced pushback from the players and coaching staff of the Israeli team, along with the Israeli populace. The Israeli basketball player Dor Saar branded Ireland as "quite anti-Semitic". Her coach voiced similar views, and the Israeli federation and local media criticized the Irish association.

Basketball Ireland vehemently denied allegations of anti-Semitism. On the matchday, a statement was posted on the association's profile on the X service, announcing that the Irish team would not engage in traditional pre-match ceremonies, including handshakes with opponents and gift exchanges.

Basketball Ireland alerted Fiba Europe that due to recent comments by Israeli players and the coaching staff - including unfounded claims of anti-Semitism posted on the official channels of the Israeli federation - our team won't be participating in traditional pre-match activities with the opposing team. This includes gift exchanges, handshakes before or after the match, and our players will line up for the Irish national anthem at our bench, not center-court. Basketball Ireland wholeheartedly backs our players' decisions - reads the statement.
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