Human Rights Watch says the world's football governing body, FIFA, has been sponsoring football matches played on “stolen” land in the occupied West Bank.
The New York-based rights organization made the statement in a Monday report.
“By allowing games to be contested there, world football’s governing body, FIFA, is engaging in business activity that supports Israeli settlements,” said the report.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds, all Palestinian territories .
“By holding games on stolen land, FIFA is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” Sari Bashi, the HRW point woman on the affairs concerning the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said.
“Some of these games are played on land owned by individual Palestinians not allowed to access the area, while others are held on land belonging to Palestinian villages that the Israeli military seized and designated for exclusive Israeli civilian use.”
Six Israeli clubs hold their games in settlement areas. The rights body further warned that the practice by FIFA countered the human rights obligations, which it has pledged to uphold.
Israel Football Association has reacted to the report, accusing the Human Rights Watch of taking the sport “from the football field into a political one.”
Also commenting on the report, Palestinian Football Association said it had asked the Asian Football Confederation to pursue the matter.
FIFA is expected to raise the issue at a meeting of its executive committee scheduled for October 13-14 meeting.