Nice’s Atal, Mainz’s El Ghazi suspended for Israel-Palestine conflict posts

French club Nice’s Youcef Atal and German club Mainz’s Anwar El Ghazi have been suspended over posts in support of Palestine.

anwar el ghazi
Dutch footballer Anwar El Ghazi has been suspended by his current club Mainz 05 for an 'unacceptable' post on the Israel-Palestine conflict [File: Paul Childs/Reuters]

Algerian footballer Youcef Atal has become the latest Muslim footballer to be reprimanded by a European football club after France’s Nice suspended him for reposting an allegedly anti-Jewish message on social media related to the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

The move, on Wednesday, came less than two days after French prosecutors launched a preliminary investigation into Atal on suspicion of “glorifying terrorism”, following complaints filed by local politicians.

“Given the nature of the publication shared [by Atal], and its seriousness, the club has taken the decision to take immediate disciplinary action against the player, prior to any action that may be taken by sporting and legal authorities,” the Ligue 1 club said in a statement.

“As such, the club has decided to suspend Youcef Atal until further notice.”

Atal is suspected of sharing a video from a Palestinian preacher on Instagram, purportedly calling for violence against Jewish people. He has since deleted the message.

The Nice prosecutor’s office confirmed in a statement it was investigating Atal under laws covering the “glorification of terrorism” after being notified by local politicians.

The prosecutor’s office said Atal is also being investigated for “public incitement to hatred or violence because of a particular religion”.

Earlier on Sunday, the French Football Federation (FFF) said its ethics committee would investigate the player, with FFF chief Philippe Diallo denouncing the contents of the post.

Atal responded to the criticism on Sunday, telling his Instagram followers he would “never support a message of hate”. He did not explain why he had shared the video.

Nice said its directors contacted Atal as soon as he returned from duty with the Algeria national team. The club decided to suspend the player despite the defender having offered a “public apology in writing”.

The 27-year-old has been playing for the club since 2018 and has made 117 appearances in various competitions.

On Friday, Atal posted the Algerian and Palestinian flags next to each other following his national team’s win a day earlier.

Mainz suspends El Ghazi over ‘unacceptable’ post

Atal’s suspension comes a day after German club Mainz 05 suspended Dutch forward Anwar El Ghazi for a social media post about the conflict that the Bundesliga club felt was “unacceptable”.

“Mainz 05 respects that there are different perspectives on the complex Middle East conflict that has been going on for decades,” the club said in a statement posted on X on Tuesday.

“El Ghazi took a position on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East that was deemed unacceptable and the club clearly distances itself from the content of the post as it does not reflect the values ​​of our club.”

Dutch international El Ghazi made the comments in a “since-deleted” post on social media on Sunday night, Mainz said.

The club did not provide further details about what El Ghazi had written in the deleted post but said, “Prior to making this decision, the club and the player had engaged in an in-depth discussion.”

It did not indicate how long the suspension could last.

Bayern’s Mazraoui to be questioned for sharing prayers

Bayern Munich has also come under pressure to act over comments on the conflict by Moroccan player Noussair Mazraoui.

The club said it would talk to the Moroccan international after he wished for victory for the Palestinians in a social media post.

“Bayern immediately contacted Noussair Mazroui after his Instagram posts on Sunday. The player is currently in Africa with the national team of Morocco. After his return, a detailed personal meeting with the club’s management in Munich is planned,” Bayern told the dpa news agency earlier this week.

Whether Mazraoui risks consequences for his posts is unclear.

The 25-year-old posted a video on social media wishing victory to the Palestinians in the conflict with Israel. He shared a short clip in which a voice says in the style of a prayer: “God, help our oppressed brothers in Palestine to achieve victory. May God give mercy to the dead, may God heal their wounded.”

Former Aston Villa winger El Ghazi, who joined Mainz in September, wrote in a separate post on X on Thursday that he had “received some negative messages around my social media posts”.

“I want to make clear that I’m standing for peace above everything,” the 28-year-old said. He also called for “more empathy, deepening our knowledge about the history of this conflict”.

Mainz’s decision has been condemned by football fans on social media, where some of them questioned the club’s action as El Ghazi did not call for “anyone to be harmed”.

Noussair Mazraoui
Morocco’s Noussair Mazraoui will be questioned by his German club Bayern Munich over his support for the Palestinian people [File: Manu Fernandez/AP Photo]

Fans urge Tottenham to drop Israeli winger Solomon

Some fans have also asked Tottenham Hotspur to take similar action against their Israeli winger Manor Solomon, who has been posting inflammatory content on his Instagram account.

Two hours after Israel allegedly bombed al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, killing at least 500 people, Solomon purportedly blamed Palestinians for “killing their own people and blaming Israel”.

He then reposted the official statement from Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, which laid the blame for the attack on Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

manor solomon screenshot
An Instagram screengrab showing Manor Solomon’s post after the explosion at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza [Screengrab/Instagram]

Liverpool Football Club fan Laurie questioned the selective behaviour shown by clubs asking players to “keep politics out of football”.

“I can guarantee that Manor Solomon will face absolutely zero consequences for his post,” he wrote.

Other posters said they were expecting Spurs to “drop him from the squad”.

The London club has not commented on the Israeli winger’s posts so far.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies