Israel’s football chief blasts the FA for being ‘afraid’ to light the Wembley arch in his country’s colours after Hamas attacks… as he calls on the organisation to ‘explain’ their refusal
- The FA decided not to light up the Wembley arch in Israel’s colours on Friday
- Fans observed the minute’s silence ahead of England’s friendly with Australia
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
Israel Football Association chief Moshe Zuares has accused the English FA of being ‘afraid’ to light the Wembley arch in tribute to victims of last week’s terrorist attacks by Hamas.
The FA announced on Thursday that famous arch at England’s home stadium would not be lit up for the Three Lions’ clash with Australia.
This is despite the ongoing Israel-Hamas war that has seen more than 1,200 people killed in Israel after a series of attacks launched by the Palestinian militant group.
A minute’s silence was observed to ‘remember the innocent victims’ on both sides of the conflict, while Israeli and Palestinian flags were banned from the match.
Players also wore black armbands during the friendly.
The FA decided against lighting the Wembley arch in Israel’s colours for Friday’s friendly
England and Australia held a minute’s silence before kick-off and wore black armbands
Israel Football Association chief Moshe Zuares claimed the FA were ‘afraid’ to light the arch
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Zuares issued a scathing critique of the English FA ahead of the match, writing in a statement that the organisation had been a ‘moral lighthouse for the free world’ on issues.
The Israeli FA president claimed his counterparts had been ‘afraid’ to light the arch and called for an explanation of the decision.
‘There are moments in history when the truth is one, sharp and clear. Such is the present time,’ Zuares wrote.
More than 1,200 children, babies, women, men and old people were slaughtered by a barbaric enemy, who committed crimes against humanity. The only sin of the victims was that they were Israelis.
Those who are afraid to light up a stadium in memory of the murdered and for the sake of historical truth, for reasons that cannot be understood at all and perhaps it is better not to even try, are in an even darker time than the one in my country is currently in.
When this happens by the FA of a nation that has always known how to be a moral lighthouse for the free world, it is more disappointing that ever.
I tried to explain this to my colleagues in the English FA several times in the past few days but they insist not to understand. Now they are the ones who need to explain.
It is understood senior FA officials were wary of a perception that they might be taking sides in the Middle East conflict.
The Wembley Arch was lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag just a day after Russia invaded the country in February 2022 – though the FA decided not to do the same for Israel
Rabbi Alex Goldberg told the FA that he was ‘profoundly disappointed’ with their decision and resigned from his position as the chair of FA’s Faith in Football group
Almost 3,000 people have already died in the Israel-Hamas war in both Israel and Gaza (residents pictured evacuating Gaza City after warning of increased military operations’
The move stands in stark contrast with the Royal Family – the King and the Prince and Princess of Wales unequivocally condemned the terrorist atrocity on Thursday.
The FA’s statement on Thursday read: ‘On Friday evening, we will remember the innocent victims of the devastating events in Israel and Palestine.
‘Our thoughts are with them, and their families and friends in England and Australia and with all the communities who are affected by this ongoing conflict. We stand for humanity and an end to the death, violence, fear and suffering.
‘England and Australia players will wear black armbands during their match at Wembley Stadium and there will also be a period of silence held before kick off.
‘Following discussions with partners and external stakeholders, we will only permit flags, replica kits and other representations of nationality for the competing nations inside Wembley Stadium for the upcoming matches against Australia [13 Oct] and Italy [17 Oct].
‘The British Red Cross have also launched an emergency appeal to support the people affected by the humanitarian crisis in the region, and we will promote this appeal within the stadium on Friday.’
England boss Gareth Southgate said the FA ‘tried to make the best decision with good intentions’ when discussing the issue in the build-up to the game.
Wembley’s arch has long been used to mark tragedies, causes and institutions. It was lit up when Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine.
The FA said it stands for stand for humanity and an end to the death, violence, fear and suffering, with the organisation promoting a British Red Cross appeal in the stadium
Meanwhile, in 2015 it wore the familiar colours of the French Tricolore as a sign of solidarity with all the victims of the Bataclan attack in Paris where extremists killed 130 people.
A year after Bataclan, it was turned red as a mark of respect and sympathy following attacks in Turkey.
And at the end of 2022, when the pioneer of modern football Pele died, the arch was lit up in the colours of Brazil with Pele’s name in bright lights.
Weeks earlier rainbow colours in support of the LGBTQ + community shone out amid the ‘OneLove’ armband saga at the Qatar World Cup.
Support for the Alzheimer’s Society also led to the arch changing colour. There has also been support on International Women’s Day last year, for the NHS in 2021 and International Day of Persons with Disability in 2020.
The FA’s refusal to light up the Wembley arch with the colours of the Israel flag has received a backlash.
Chelsea Jewish Supporters’ Group were among those to criticise the decision, tweeting: ‘This spineless response is why we need people to speak out against terrorism.’
Neil O’Brien MP described the decision as ‘just pathetic’ while Lord Ian Austin said it was a ‘complete disgrace’.
Rabbi Alex Goldberg, who is the chair of the FA’s Faith in Football group, resigned from his position in protest at the FA’s decision.
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