|Rambling Rajoub in action|
It was a conclusion no one saw coming. The day started with a good amount of protestors amassing outside the FIFA Congress- one of whom managed to get into the auditorium and flash a red card and a Palestinian flag before being dragged out.
Point 15.1 on the Agenda was finally discussed late in the afternoon but not before Mr. Rajoub got up to make an important amendment to the proposal. Rajoub spoke of the previous failures of FIFA to solve the impasse, reminding the audience that this was the third year in a row he was addressing the FIFA Congress about this issue. Despite his dismay, the former head of Internal Security said he was withdrawing the motion at the behest of many "friends" who advised him to do so.
He instead proposed a vote on three points:
- Investigations into racism (assumedly referencing Beitar Jerusalem's behavior)
- The status of five clubs located in settlements in the West Bank that play in Israeli leagues.
- Freedom of movement for Palestinian athletes and equipment.
Many analogies and anecdotes were used during Rajoub's speech which was at best rambling and unorganized without a clear set of concrete demands. His habit of leaning into the stand and screaming into microphone seemed to hamper his messaging.
The tragicomedy continued as Blatter moved to deny the Israeli FA the floor citing FIFA's bylaws. After a brief discussion with Secretary General Jerome Valcke, Blatter screamed across the hall "Where is our lawyer!"- quite apropos given FIFA recent legal troubles.
Eventually, Ofer Eini was allowed to speak and his speech was mostly platitudes about "football being a bridge for peace".
Blatter then gave the floor back to Rajoub who insisted that any deal be under the umbrella of the FIFA statutes. In continuing the circus spirit of the congress, Rajoub screamed "this is not an emotional issue for me ya Ofer!" and then said something about his "gun being [his] gun".
When the dust settled- a vote did take place and Palestine won the revised motion with 90% of the vote (18 FAs voted against). That said, it seems that the vote just solidified the status quo and the big winner on the day was Blatter and the IFA who avoided the vote they so desperately wanted to avoid.
Many extrapolated that the revised vote was indicative of support for the original motion- which is perhaps misplaced optimism. The revised motion fails to change the status quo on the ground and it is very likely we could end up back here sometime down the road. Only time will tell if all the negative PR generated this month will cause Israeli authorities to think twice whilst interfering in Palestinian sport.
The other thing that became blatantly clear while watching the live stream of the FIFA Congress is that Jibril Rajoub is a horrible FA President. He is brash and uncouth and cannot explain himself or his points in a calm and sensible manner. The withdrawal of the original motion was probably the result of his failure to garner enough support. True, it was most likely never going to garner 75%- but getting 90+ nations to vote for it would have been a powerful message and a yellow card of sorts.
The aim of this resolution should have been to make the lives of Palestinian athletes easier and it's incredibly hard to argue that that has been achieved today.