Until Wednesday, Israeli fans were unable to purchase tickets for November’s 2022 FIFA World Cup, encountering only a sales agent for the “occupied Palestinian territories” on the FIFA sales website.
“Efforts were made to find and appoint a sales agent in Israel, but we were not able to do so,” a spokesperson for MATCH Hospitality told the Jewish Chronicle, while noting that “Palestine is served by our sales agent, Winterhill Hospitality, based in Hong Kong.”
The MATCH Hospitality shareholder Winterhill Hospitality was listed for the “occupied Palestinian territories” after being appointed “the exclusive sales agent for the FIFA 2022 hospitality packages in Asia and Oceania,” according to its website.
The “Palestine” sales posting was removed from the site after the discovery, while the MATCH Hospitality spokesperson said Israel’s absence from the sales-agent list was “not unique to Israel.”
“There are in fact many dozens of national territories where we do not have exclusive representation and therefore do not feature in our website,” the spokesperson said.
“Some of the territories where we do not have a sales agent are served by our international sales office based in Spain, and this is reflected on our website,” they added.
“This is a disgrace,” one Israeli man told Israeli news outlet Ynet. “Qatar was chosen as the host of the games and must include all member states and allow fans from all over the world.”
After soccer fans noticed that the list of agents did not include Israel, the “occupied Palestinian territories” sales agent was removed. However, at the time of publication, Israel was still not available on the list of sales agents on the website, whereas “Palestine” was.
In June, Israel made an agreement with FIFA allowing Israelis to buy tickets to attend the 2022 World Cup and enter Qatar on Israeli passports, despite no diplomatic relations having been established between the two countries. The Israeli team is not participating in the tournament this year as it did not qualify.
According to The Times of Israel, “Under the terms of the deal reached with FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, Israelis seeking to attend must first purchase a ticket to a game, then apply online for a Fan ID card; approval of which grants its holder entry to Qatar and enables them to order accommodation.”
The agreement was particularly notable as it would be the first time an Israeli would be allowed to enter Qatar without using a foreign passport.
Then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the deal with FIFA “another diplomatic achievement that will warm the hearts of soccer fans,” while opening “a gate to new, warm relations.” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that “Israelis visiting [Qatar] will strengthen the bonds of understanding between citizens of the two countries.”
However, unlike other Arab Gulf states like the UAE and Bahrain, Qatar has not joined the Arab-Israeli Abraham Accords. Prospects for Qatari-Israeli ties have been complicated further by Qatar’s support of the Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas and Qatar’s close relations with Iran.
Between 1995 and 2000, Israel held a commercial office in Qatar which was eventually closed.
Ironically, while Qatar does not officially recognize the Jewish state’s existence, it signed a commercial agreement with Israel concerning free trade for diamonds and gold in November 2021.
Israel’s team is not participating in the World Cup in Qatar, as Israel did not qualify for the tournament.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.