In a EuroBasket 2025 qualifier game between Ireland and Israel, things got heated even before the tip-off in Riga, Latvia. The Irish women’s basketball team made quite the spectacle by refusing to take part in the customary pre-game rituals. But as the final buzzer sounded, it was clear who came out on top.
Read the entire article for good balanced coverage of what and why.
Shame on Ireland. But, look what is happening over there.
— jmaceye (@jmaceye) February 12, 2024
The controversy stemmed from leftist protests against Israel’s defensive actions against the terrorist group Hamas. Basketball Ireland, the governing body for the sport in the country, made it known that the Irish squad would not be engaging in standard pre-game sportsmanship gestures with the Israeli team. This included skipping handshakes and gift exchanges and choosing to line up along the sideline for their national anthem instead of coming together with the Israeli team at center court.
The Irish team defended their stance by pointing to comments made by Israeli player Dor Saar, who accused the Irish of being anti-Semitic. But the real truth is, Basketball Ireland was trying to back out of playing against Israel altogether as a form of protest against the nation’s fight for survival. However, FIBA Europe insisted that the game proceed, much to the chagrin of the Irish.
Amid mounting pressure from Palestinian solidarity groups and Irish athletes, Basketball Ireland’s CEO, John Feehan, vocalized the organization’s reluctance. He even mentioned that not playing would result in hefty fines and a ban from FIBA tournaments for five years. Essentially, the Irish team’s decision to take the court against Israel wasn’t rooted in sportsmanship or solidarity but in fear of consequences from the governing body.
When the game got underway, Ireland’s five players refused to take part, expressing their disapproval of the situation. Former national team player Rebecca O’Keefe spoke out in support of boycotting the game, echoing sentiments from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. It’s clear that for some, this was seen as an opportunity to condemn and reject Israel rather than a sports competition.
But when it came down to the game itself, Israel left no doubt as to who the superior team was, clinching a commanding 87-57 victory. In the end, their actions spoke louder than words. Coach Sharon Drucker expressed shock at Basketball Ireland’s conduct, emphasizing the importance of sportsmanship in competition. And even in the face of all the controversy, Israel emerged triumphant, proving that actions always speak louder than words.
The game was a clear example of a small victory for Israel, despite the unsportsmanlike behavior displayed by their opponents. The Irish Women’s Basketball team not only lost the game but also appear to have lost the moral high ground they sought to stake out. In the world of sports, fair play and competition take center stage, and Israel’s decisive win was a testament to that.