Yemen sacks chess team for playing against Israel

Catrina Stewart
Thursday 23 September 2010 00:00
Comments

Yemen has sacked the country's chess team and members of the governing body after its players competed against Israel at a tournament in Belarus.

The Yemeni Sports minister, Hamud Mohammed Ubad, took the unusual decision after players ignored instructions to pull out if drawn against Israel, which is widely criticised in the Middle East for its policies towards the Palestinians.

"This was an individual action contrary to the policy of Yemen, which refuses any normalisation with Israel," said Mr Ubad, adding that the players were on their way home from Minsk.

Like several other Middle Eastern countries, Yemen does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and bars travellers from entering the country if they have Israeli stamps in their passports.

Most Arab states, with the notable exceptions of Jordan and Egypt, have long shunned relations with Israel in protest at its decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories. Syria and Lebanon, both of which share a border with Israel, consider themselves still at war with Israel. Qatar, which tried to restore diplomatic ties with Israel last year, was rebuffed.

Political tensions have frequently spilled over into the sporting arena, despite impassioned appeals from sporting bodies to keep sport separate from politics.

The United Arab Emirates came under fire last year when it denied a visa to Shahar Peer, a leading Israeli tennis player. The UAE said it feared for her safety in the wake of Israel's military offensive in Gaza that killed up to 1,400 Palestinians. Peer was allowed to compete in Dubai this year, however.

Chess is not immune to the same pressures. Last year, Israel's chess federation protested to the Turkish organisers of a junior chess tournament who refused to play the Israeli national anthem for the Israeli victor, breaking with years of tradition.

Turkey, which came close to severing relations with Israeli earlier this year after a deadly raid on a Turkish-owned aid ship bound for Gaza, has been increasingly outspoken in its opposition to Israel since the Gaza offensive.

Libya, which has described Israel's existence as "fictitious", provoked controversy at the international chess championship in Tripoli in 2004 when it denied visas to Israeli competitors.

Israel, whose game has greatly benefited from the influx of chess-playing Russian immigrants, is fifth in the world chess rankings out of 154 countries. Yemen is 89th.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in