The Israeli women's soccer team played its Welsh counterpart last night amid protests from both pro-Palestinian and Zionist activists. Wales beat Israel 5-0 in the Group 4 Euro Women qualification match held at the Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham, Wales.
Several activists were ejected from the stadium, and many were not allowed to enter at all, Liam Randall, a local journalist, told Haaretz, based on information he gathered on the ground.
The protest was part of an ongoing campaign by pro-Palestinian groups against Israel's hosting next year of the UEFA under-21s tournament - protesters also demonstrated at the Israel-Scotland match on Saturday night.
Demonstrators, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have been protesting claims that Palestinian athletes and teams from the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not granted visas by Israel. They also drew attention last night to the plight of Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who has been detained in Israel without charge or trial. Israeli authorities say Sarsak, who has been on a hunger strike since March 19, will be released next month.
The Zionist Central Council of Manchester also called on Israel's supporters to rally in a counter-demonstration outside the game, sending a bus full of activists to the event. The council urged supporters "to head to the Racecourse 'with Israeli flags to show your support for the Israeli women's football team,'" and to "'send the Palestine Solidarity Campaign a message that Israel is not an apartheid country, but rather a country that has brought major advancements in technology and health care to the rest of the world,'" the local website Wrexham.com reported.
Better than in Scotland
Diana Redman, a member of Israel's soccer team, told Haaretz last night: "They did a great job of not letting in anyone that was related to the protest, and if anyone tried to pull out a flag or start chanting they were immediately thrown out of the stadium. Much better than Scotland. As a player, I really appreciate the effort by the Welsh organization."
There have been warnings that Israeli participants in next month's London Olympics will face protests and potential disturbances. However, embassy officials this week said that security arrangements around the Olympic village and the games would not allow for any disruption whatsoever.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said: "It is shocking that in the homeland of football, there are those whose hatred for the Jewish state is greater than the love for the game. On the eve of the Olympic games, every sports fan should condemn deluded protests against guest athletes."
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