FIFA Allows Druze Player Without Israeli Passport to Join National Team

Decision over Wiyam Amashe, who is from the Druze town of Buq'ata in the Golan Heights, sets new precedent.

Maccabi Haifa striker Wiyam Amashe received special permission from FIFA, the governing body of soccer, on Wednesday to play on Israel's national team, even though he does not hold an Israeli passport.

Amashe was cleared by FIFA after Avi Luzon, chairman of the Israel Football Association, used his connections and explained the player's unusual circumstances.

Maccabi Haifa striker Wiyam Amashe.Sharon Bokov

Amashe was born and lives in the Druze town of Buq'ata in the Golan Heights. In December 1981, the Knesset enacted a law ending the military administration in the Golan and extending Israeli civil law over the territory captured in the Six-Day War. Residents of the town, which lies close to the Syrian border, passed on their eligibility to claim Israeli citizenship.

The decision by FIFA is exceptional and sets a precedent because, according to the international bylaws of the association, a player can play for a national team only if he is a citizen of that country and holds a passport in that nation.

"We are very satisfied that we managed to get permission from FIFA," Luzon said Wednesday. "We managed the issue quietly, and we are glad that the next national coach will have the option of calling up one of the most successful strikers currently in Israeli soccer."

Yaakov Shahar, owner of Maccabi Haifa, said, "I'm happy for Amashe and for our national team as well. It's just a shame the decision wasn't made before the recent Euro 2012 campaign ¬ but better late than never."