Orlando Pirates respond to calls to ditch match against Maccabi Tel Aviv
Orlando Pirates have responded to calls that they should not play Maccabi Tel Aviv on their preseason tour of Spain in solidarity with the plight of Palestinians, saying the club does “not enjoy such latitude” to take sides on causes and is bound by rules.
The club clarified its links to the struggle for freedom in South Africa and said it has sympathy for the cause of Palestinians in their conflicts and human rights disputes with Israel.
The Buccaneers said the three matches on their tour were organised by a Fifa match agent and since, by the “rule of law” there is no “boycott of any form” against Israel, they are bound to play Thursday's game against Maccabi.
“From time to time, the leadership of Orlando Pirates find ourselves having to communicate publicly on subjects other than those of football in the field of play,” Bucs said in a statement.
“When we do, we do so reluctantly because of our understanding and respect that Orlando Pirates belong to all.
“Whereas it is easy for those who have taken sides and adopted causes to make calls and demands, we do not enjoy such latitude. Solutions we seek need to be inclusive and arrived at through putting heads together rather than apart.
“The facts are Orlando Pirates is participating in a preseason camp organised by a Fifa match agent involving numerous clubs from Africa, Asia, Europe and Middle East. Pirates have no hand in organising the event.
“In fact, Pirates needed to fulfil criteria qualifying us to participate. Pirates had no liaisons with any participating club or the organisers relating to fixtures [which were] arrived at independently by the organisers. It is an important fact that all the participating clubs are Fifa affiliates regulated by Fifa statutes.
“Whereas we could have conveniently resorted to a response limited to the facts about the preseason camp, it is important given Pirates’ values and history that the club’s position be known. Pirates is a socially-conscious club that fully understands it exists for the community and society.
“Pirates has a record that includes being banned from using government infrastructure because it formed itself into a nonracial club against the dictates of the apartheid government.”
The club cited examples including “the iconic team made up of the change agents Gert van der Haer, Mannie Davis, Hans Moses, Salthiel Choechoe, Dingaan Phakathi, Abram 'Mainline' Khoza, Ralph Hendriks, Bernard Hartze, Zero Johnson, Rashid Khan, Smiley Moosa, Kaizer Motaung, Percy Moloi and Alan Chiyi”.
“The nonracial Pirates team refused to participate in the rebel tour organised in defiance of the cultural boycott and sanctioned by the apartheid government. Pirates’ leadership had to go into hiding to avoid arrests after refusing to dismantle the nonracial team in defiance of the apartheid government order to do so.”
Bucs said the club “was in the forefront of the formation of the nonracial soccer league in South Africa well ahead of 1994” and “has initiated and participated in efforts to counter abuse against women and children, xenophobic attacks against other nationals resident in South Africa”.
On its stance on the “plight of the Palestinians”, Pirates said: “As a club that has its roots in a conflict-ridden South Africa and has been an active participant in the dismantling of apartheid, Pirates is naturally conscious of the plight of the Palestinian people.
“Of the many forces that seek a long overdue solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Orlando Pirates stand with those who believe a path exists for men and women of courage to continue coming together to find a lasting solution that South Africa proved to the world can be found when there is a will and courage.
“It is to the rules that Pirates went when confronted with calls to withdraw from playing Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“There is no cultural boycott or boycott of any form by either the South African government, Fifa or the host country that Pirates can base its refusal to play against Maccabi Tel Aviv on. Heeding a call from any other body would create a conflict within Pirates that would undermine the club’s values and history irreparably.”
After playing Maccabi, Pirates meet Independiente da Valle of Ecuador on Saturday. They end their Spanish tour against promoted La Liga team Las Palmas next Wednesday.
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