Footballers ‘boycott match’ due to Israeli former Chelsea manager
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino declared he was “uniting the world” at an exhibition match in Doha but a trio of Algerian footballers reportedly pulled out of the occasion because of the presence of Israeli coach Avram Grant.
Doha hosted a FIFA Arab Legends versus FIFA World Legends match on Friday as part of the build-up to the FIFA Arab Cup final.
However, the involvement of former Chelsea manager Grant – who led the Blues to the Champions League final in 2008 after taking over from Jose Mourinho – apparently proved too much for Algerian icons Rabah Madjer, Rafik Saifi and Rafik Halliche, according to The Times of Israel.
Each had initially been listed as among the participants but were not named on the teamsheets for the actual match which appeared on the FIFA website.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, FIFA made no mention of the withdrawals in their official report.
🤩⚽️❤️On the eve of the #FIFArabCup final, Al Thumama Stadium played host to special, all-star match as FIFA Arab Legends took on a FIFA World Legends team packed with #WorldCup champions - and won 🙌📽️ℹ️👉 https://t.co/fIQpf8b17Ipic.twitter.com/xh1JVBTcX0— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 18, 2021
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is to appear on both sides of an Arab Legends v World Legends match in Qatar tomorrow, alongside the likes of Sami Al Jaber, Andrea Pirlo, @Tim_Cahill, and what would appear to be the 69 year old former Emir of Qatar pic.twitter.com/Fb4pvrFWjy— James Corbett (@james_corbett) December 16, 2021
The FIFA World Legends team featured the likes of Marcel Desailly, Cafu, Andrea Pirlo and Lothar Matthias, while their Arab rivals boasted former Saudi striker Sami Al-Jaber.
The Arab legends won on penalties after mounting a fightback at Al Thumama Stadium in the Qatari capital.
“Tonight we unite the Arab world with the entire world,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino had crowed to the crowd.
“We are all one team!”
Grant, 66, has enjoyed a long career in coaching, including as Israeli national team manager.
He is a friend of Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich and was appointed Blues boss in September 2007 after initially serving as director of football at the London club.
His spell was to be short-lived as he left the position after Chelsea’s penalty shootout defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League final in Moscow in May of 2008.
He later worked at Portsmouth and West Ham, as well as at Partizan Belgrade and with the Ghana national team.
The Algerian trio who reportedly refused to compete against Grant would not be the first to do so from their homeland.
Algeria has no diplomatic ties with Israel and is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew from the the Olympics in Tokyo earlier this year to avoid a potential showdown with an Israeli opponent.
Nourine was later slapped with a 10-year ban by the International Judo Federation.