THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem faced criticism Monday for travelling to Abu Dhabi for a training camp without defender Dan Mori, who was not allowed into the Arab emirate because he is Israeli.
Vitesse spokeswoman Ester Bal said the team, which is second in the Dutch league, was told a day before it flew to Abu Dhabi on Sunday that Mori would not be allowed into the country, after earlier being given assurances he would be admitted.
Officials in the United Arab Emirates could not immediately be reached for comment. The UAE is a federation of seven states that includes the oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi and the commercial hub Dubai. Like most Arab countries, it does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
"Vitesse should not have gone to UAE as a protest against the refusal of Mori," populist lawmaker Geert Wilders tweeted. Wilders, known for his anti-Islam comments, is also fiercely pro-Israel. Esther Voet, director of a Dutch-based organization called the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, was critical of Vitesse and the United Arab Emirates.
"Abu Dhabi, come on, let's get real," she said. "If you want to be a member of FIFA, you do not do this." In a telephone interview from Abu Dhabi, the Vitesse spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the team could not call off its trip because it is scheduled to play practice matches against German teams Wolfsburg and Hamburg later this week.
She said Mori stayed behind to train with the Vitesse reserves and supported the first team's decision to go ahead with its trip to Abu Dhabi. Mori is not the first sportsperson barred from entering the UAE.
Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was denied entry to compete in the Dubai Tennis Championships in 2009 because of what officials said were anti-Israel sentiments in the country following Israel's war with Islamic militants in Gaza. The tournament was fined $300,000 by the WTA for refusing Peer.
She was admitted to compete in subsequent years. Other Israelis have been allowed in, too. In 2010, Israel sent its first Cabinet member, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, to the country to attend a conference of the International Renewable Energy Agency, which is based in Abu Dhabi.
Many other Israelis who hold dual citizenship are believed to travel on their other country's passport to the UAE, a major trade and logistics hub for the wider Middle East.
Associated Press writer Adam Schrek in Dubai contributed to this report.