Johannesburg - "I have delivered on my mandate".
This is what South African mogul and former politician Tokyo Sexwale told City Press a few days ago after Fifa discarded the Israel-Palestine matter.
Sexwale was appointed by deposed Fifa president Sepp Blatter in May 2015 to chair the Fifa Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine – which was established based on the decision by Fifa Congress in 2015 to avert a vote on suspending Israel from world soccer – with a view to finding a solution that would allow the game to be played under conducive and peaceful conditions in the volatile region.
After lengthy consultations that saw Sexwale travel extensively to the West Bank and Gaza, he was supposed to table his report at the Fifa Congress in Bahrain in May.
After assuming the hot seat at the helm of world football, Fifa president Gianni Infantino promised to make the Israel-Palestine matter one of his priorities, but he had the item removed from the agenda and referred the report to the Fifa Council. The council is a 37-member structure that replaced the executive committee as part of reforms after Fifa was hit with multiple scandals.
After going through the report, Fifa issued a statement reading: “Following the report submitted by the Fifa Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine chaired by Tokyo Sexwale and after a thorough legal consultation process, the Fifa Council has agreed on a position with regard to the administration of football in the West Bank territories.
“The Fifa Council has decided to refrain from imposing any sanctions or other measures on either the Israel Football Association [IFA] or the Palestinian Football Association [PFA], as well as from requesting any other Fifa body to do so. The matter is declared closed and will not be the subject of any further discussion until the legal and/or de facto framework has changed,” the statement continued.
“With that said, the Fifa administration will continue to facilitate the movement of players, officials and football equipment in, out of and within Palestine – the aspect on which the Fifa Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine has covered the most ground and achieved a positive response".
This caused a worldwide uproar, with some saying it was a missed opportunity for Fifa to solve this impasse once and for all. Others said it was a two-year waste of Sexwale’s time and effort.
In an article published in Inside World Football, Andrew Warshaw wrote: “Inside World Football has seen a copy of the much-debated report by South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, which covers several meetings between the various parties, and lists a series of options and recommendations, all of which were rejected by Fifa’s all-powerful council ... in the process breaking the organisation’s own statutes".
City Press has seen the report, which has the following recommendations:
- Option 1: Maintenance of the current status quo
The status quo remains in that the IFA continues to administer football in the territories under discussion (the settlements). Under this option, it implies that there should be no action by Fifa until the Oslo discussions – or similar negotiations – involving facilitated or direct talks between the parties have resolved the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In line with article 72.2 of the Fifa Statues, which proclaim that member associations and their clubs may not play in the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval, the IFA is given a warning by Fifa (yellow card) to rectify this issue by desisting to administer football in the territories concerned within a minimum period of six months.
Failure to find a resolution within this period shall mean that the matter will revert to the Fifa Council for final decision-making.
- Option 3: Discussions should be encouraged between the IFA and the PFA
Continued discussions between the IFA and PFA should be encouraged and should be based purely on football issues aimed at finding accommodation on how to agree among themselves.
However, Fifa decided to follow none of the above recommendations in a thick report with 23 annexures marked A-W.
In the report, the committee states that representatives from the IFA and PFA had “always tried to remain cool-headed” over the period of two years of negotiations. It also states that one of the achievements was “the development of an IT system to facilitate the movement of people and goods in, out of and within Palestine”.
They said that, while it was still a work in progress, the IT mechanisms were in the process of being further developed.
No control over
Sexwale could not be drawn to comment on Fifa’s decision not to act on or make the report public, despite having stated in the “closing remarks” of the report that “what the Fifa leadership cannot any longer avoid is making a decision on this matter.
“My mandate from Fifa was to lead the committee, investigate and compile a report,” he said. “I did that and handed in a comprehensive report. What they do after that, I have no control over".
He would also not comment about an open letter written to him by a group of South Africans, titled Time to stand for Palestinian rights at Fifa, saying his mandate was only from Fifa, and that he only reported and responded to it regarding this matter.
Fifa’s response to question sent by City Press was to refer us to the official statement here.