A Dutch soccer team is facing criticism for playing in Abu Dhabi despite the emirate’s refusal to let in the team’s Israeli defender.
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Two Dutch politicians and several media criticized the team Vitesse from Arnhem over the weekend for agreeing to play in Abu Dhabi despite the refusal Saturday to let Dan Mori into the country for matches against two German teams.
Geert Wilders, leader of the rightist, pro-Israel Party for Freedom, on Sunday called the team cowardly on his Twitter account. “Vitesse shouldn’t have gone to the United Arab Emirates to protest the refusal to let Mori in. They are now accepting the emirates’ Jew-hate. Cowardly.”
Pieter Omtzigt, a lawmaker for the CDA party, told Dutch media on Monday that Vitesse should behave like Dutch lawmakers, who refuse to visit places which try to dictate the make-up of parliamentary delegations.
Ester Bal, communications director for Vitesse, said the team “stays away from politics and religion. We have always done this. We are a soccer club.”
Management said in a statement that the decision to go to Abu Dhabi was made because “the team had obligations and wanted to prepare to the best of our abilities for future matches.”
In January 2010, Hamas operative Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh was assassinated in the neighboring Saudi emirate of Dubai in a complex operation which involved two people dressed in tennis outfits and several other operatives.
Israel, which was widely seen as responsible for the killing, never confirmed or denied its involvement.