Despite an explicit ban by the league on using the map of historic Palestine on their uniforms, the Club Deportivo Palestino soccer team defied the league ruling when they debuted their new uniform on Friday.
The new jersey has a gold image of Palestine on the front and a much smaller map of Palestine embedded in each numeral in the back of each shirt. The previous uniform employs the image of Palestine to represent the numeral one. (For our previous reporting on this story see here and here.) Also, the name of the club’s new sponsor, The Bank of Palestine is now prominently featured on the jersey.
The map of Palestine had been banned and the club fined because the league office found the image to be a violation of a prohibition on a soccer team making political or religious statements. The official league ruling also indicated that the jerseys were an expression of political and racial discrimination.
Fernando Aguad, the president of the team, initially agreed to the ban, but before the new uniforms were unveiled, he then contradicted himself by issuing the following statement:
There are no rules against using the ancient map of Palestine on sportswear. We are going to design a new shirt with complete liberty to include the territory of, and any symbols relating to, Palestine.
The Santiago Times reported the story under the headline, “New Chilean club soccer shirt ‘damages Jewish-Palestine relations.’”
Here is a statement given to the newspaper by Maximiliano Grass, Director of the Chile Israel Council.
Palestino’s decision to keep the Palestinian map of Israel on the shirts demonstrates the club does not recognize any form of coexistence policy and disregards any potential peace dialogue.
Palestino is promoting extremist ideologies based on the denial of Israel — for this reason it will be difficult for the Jewish community to restore the good relations that once existed between the two communities.
Maurico Abu-Ghosh, President of the Palestinian Federation in Chile, told The Santiago Times:
I do not see how the matter is controversial. We use the map that belongs to us — the map that represents the old Palestine. This is the map that existed when our ancestors first came to Chile.
I do not view the map as a political statement, it is a romantic notion, relating to the old Palestine. We are not at the mercy of what the Jewish community like or dislike — the reason why Palestino used the map is clear.
The Palestino soccer team is a major professional sports franchise in Chile and this controversy is big news there. The number of Chileans of Palestinian descent living in Chile has been estimated to be between 300 and 500 thousand. It is the largest Palestinian population outside the Middle East.
There has been no reaction from league officials to the new jerseys.