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Members of the Irish team ahead of this afternoon's game Screengrab/FIBA/YouTube

Irish basketball team did not shake hands with Israeli team after being accused of antisemitism

Yesterday, Israeli basketball player Dor Sa’ar described the Ireland team as “anti-Semitic”.


THE IRISH TEAM did not shake hands or engage in the “traditional pre-match arrangements” with Israel ahead of this afternoon’s FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifier following accusations of “antisemitism”.

The game was originally due to take place in Israel on 9 November 2023, but was postponed due to the conflict in the region and later rescheduled for a neutral venue in Riga, Latvia today. 

The game tipped off at 4pm this afternoon and Israel won the fixture 87-57.

Photos were published online this week of the Israeli team posing with armed members of the Israeli Defence Forces at a sports hall in Tel Aviv. 

Ireland’s decision to fulfil today’s fixture came under increased public scrutiny this week, forcing Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan to repeatedly defend the decision not to withdraw.

Yesterday, Israeli basketball player Dor Sa’ar described the Ireland team as “antisemitic”.  

In an interview published on the Israeli Basketball Federation website, Sa’ar said: “It’s known that they are quite antisemitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected. We have to show that we’re better than them and win.”

Speaking after today’s game, head coach James Weldon said the team didn’t engage in the pre-match activities “as a direct result of those unwarranted and unacceptable comments from the Israeli camp about our players”.

“It was hugely disappointing. We came here for a game of basketball, we wanted to win, but didn’t come out on the right side of the result on this occasion. We had three international debutants in this game, we’re building a squad, so there’s positives to take from this game,” he said.

Weldon also praised his players for showing “incredible maturity in how they handled a very pressured week”.

“It’s been difficult for all of us, but we kept it tight and kept it together and all I can say is that we did not back down out there today. They’re a good side, a player who played in the WNBA, all professional players. The second half was really good and we’ve got plenty to build on.”

Before the game this afternoon, Basketball Ireland confirmed that the team would no longer partake in the traditional pre-match arrangements. 

Basketball Ireland said it informed FIBA yesterday that “as a direct result of recent comments made by Israeli players and coaching staff – including inflammatory and wholly inaccurate accusations of antisemitism, published on official Israeli federation channels – that our players will not be partaking in traditional pre-match arrangements with our upcoming opponents”. 

“This includes exchanging of gifts, formal handshakes before or after the game, while our players will line up for the national anthem by our bench, rather than centre court,” it said. 

Basketball Ireland said it “fully supports” its players in their decision. 

RTÉ News reported yesterday that five Irish players are believed to have chosen not to travel to Latvia for the game. 

With reporting from Jane Moore

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