Pirates confirm friendly with Maccabi goes ahead

Call for Sea Robbers to withdraw divides fans

11 July 2023 - 07:48
By Sihle Ndebele
Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza.

Orlando Pirates’ decision to disregard the call by Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Coalition (BDS) to boycott their pre-season friendly against Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv, in solidarity with Palestine, has divided opinions.

Build One SA (Bosa) leader Mmusi Maimane and DA shadow minister for sport Tsepo Mhlongo, in his personal capacity, see nothing wrong about Pirates’ friendly against Maccabi.

Conversely, erstwhile head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Vusi Pikoli supports BDS’s stance that Pirates should snub the friendly.

“BDS itself, as an institution, can’t dictate the policy of SA. The policy that SA holds is that we need a two-state solution. Israel itself has a right to exist as much as Palestine, therefore Orlando Pirates are well within their rights to play against Maccabi,” Maimane, a staunch Kaizer Chiefs supporter, told Sowetan yesterday.

Mhlongo, in his individual capacity, said he felt the Sea Robbers were well within their rights to face Maccabi. He said he’d reserve his opinion if his party were to come forward and take its stand.

“I am a Pirates fan, so I’d choose to speak in my personal capacity. Pirates are an independent club and they’ve got a right to decide who to play and who not to. This is not the DA’s stand and if the DA would state their stance, I’d then keep quiet. But all in all, sports unite people...let Pirates play whoever they want to play,” Mhlongo said.

Pikoli said he’d stop supporting the Sea Robbers should they lock horns against Maccabi or any other Israeli outfit. “The day Pirates plays against Maccabi or any other club from Israel is the day I quit supporting OP. I am terribly disappointed in chairman Irvin Khoza. Israel is an apartheid state that must be isolated like apartheid SA was. Pirates supporters must take a stand,” Pikoli tweeted yesterday.

When contacted to elaborate on his tweet, he said: “It is rather unfortunate that Orlando Pirates did not accede the call,” before the interview was cut short. Attempts to get him back were unsuccessful.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, another die-hard Chiefs fan, also weighed in, urging Pirates and BDS to sort out their differences behind the scenes. “Pirates and BDS must sit down around the table and stop shouting at each other in public,” Holomisa said.

Saying he was in a meeting in Morocco, Safa president Danny Jordaan referred all the questions to his deputy Linda Zwane, who asked to be sent questions, but ended up not reverting.

Pirates face Maccabi on Thursday, before taking on Independiente del Valle two days later. To cap off the Spanish tour, Pirates will face UD Las Palmas on July 19.

On Friday, BDS  released a statement, calling for Pirates to snub the friendly against Maccabi. “There is nothing ‘friendly’ about playing a team representing apartheid Israel,” BDS said.

Yesterday, the Sea Robbers released their own statement, confirming they were going ahead with this friendly.

The SA Friends of Israeli (Safi) said: “This own goal [referring to BDS’s call for Pirates to snub Maccabi] would be a grave injustice to South African sports, as well as the positive role that sports plays in bringing people of diverse backgrounds together, and we call on the Orlando Pirates to stand firm.”