Geo-politics has been thrust into the centre of a basketball match between Ireland and Israel after the Irish team refused to shake the hands of their opponents.
Competing in the first match of EuroBasket Women 2025, a qualifier in Latvia, the Irish team made a public display to snub the Israelis as tempers flared over an “inflammatory” interview.
The Irish players were incensed over comments made by Israeli player Dor Saar in an interview published by the Israeli Basketball Association (IBA).
Saar charged the Irish team with being anti-Semitic.
“It’s known that they are quite anti-Semitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected,” Saar said in the interview.
“We have to show that we’re better than them and win.
“We talk about it among ourselves, we know they don’t like us and we will always leave everything on the field and in this game especially.”
Basketball Ireland (BI) hit back, blasting the statement as “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate”.
The Irish team hit back by refusing to shake hands with the Israelis.
They also declined to exchange gifts and stood by the bench instead of lining up at centre court for the national anthem as is tradition.
The snub may have backfired though, with Israel winning the game held in Riga 87-57.
The IBA issued a statement saying the team won “despite the lack of sportsmanship of the visiting team.”
BI didn’t back down though, writing: “Basketball Ireland fully supports our players in their decision.”
The governing body had previously expressed “strong concerns” about the Israeli team’s participation in the tournament and stated Ireland may refuse to play Israel.
BA referenced the ongoing war between Israel and Gaza, which was sparked by the October 7 terrorist attack in Israel and has resulted in the deaths of at least 27,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis.
The ongoing war has created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, according to the United Nations.
“We are all very concerned about the events unfolding in Gaza and are extremely sympathetic to the dreadful situation that people are having to deal with,” BA said in a statement, according to the Jerusalem Post.
However, The International Basketball Federation warned Ireland would be hit with a €100,000 and banned from the EuroBasket Women 2025 and 2027 Qualifiers if it refused to play.