PARIS, France, December 4 – Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba is the latest player to distance himself from a petition to UEFA denouncing awarding the European under-21 football championships to Israel.
The petition, the initiative of French-born Mali striker Frederic Kanoute who now plays in China with Beijing Gunan, was published on the former Lyon, Tottenham and West Ham striker’s website last week.
But Drogba joined a growing band of players whose names appeared on the list to state he had never signed the protest.
“My name was on a list of signatories of a petition supporting Palestine,” he wrote on his website. “Please note, I did not sign this petition or give my support to this initiative, because I have never got involved in any conflicts, even in my own country the Ivory Coast.”
Earlier, Newcastle United’s French international midfleider Yohan Cabaye and Valenciennes striker Anthony Le Tallec also said they had not been involved in the initiative.
“Yohan Cabaye was never a signatory of the petitition supporting Palestine which Frederic Kanoute was behind,” Cabaye explained on his website.
“After an appeal from a team-mate Yohan Cabaye merely expressed his sadness and sympathy for the families of the young footballers who were killed, as he would have done for any child who was a victim of a similar situation.”
Le Tallec tweeted his denial. “when I do something or say say something I mean it and in this case I never signed anything at all concerning the Euro (under-21 championships). There, that’s all.”
Last week, it was widely reported that dozens of professional footballers, including Drogba, had written to UEFA in protest at a decision to award Israel the under-21 European championships next year in the wake of fresh conflict with the Palestinians.
In a letter to the European game’s ruling body, which organises the tournament, the players said that allowing the Jewish nation to host the competition would condone its recent offensive against Gaza-based militants.
The players, among them a number of top players from the English, French, Italian and Spanish top flight, said they expressed solidarity with Gazans who were “living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.
“The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world’s conscience,” they added in the letter, which was widely published on the Internet.
The players also highlighted the Israeli bombardment of a football stadium in Gaza on November 10 that killed four teenagers and the plight of a number of Palestinian footballers detained by Israel since February this year.
“It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values,” the letter said.
“Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community.
“All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge.”
The eight-day confrontation ended with a November 21 ceasefire deal. Some 175 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and six Israelis, two of them soldiers, were killed in the conflict, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.