THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch soccer club is facing criticism for traveling to Abu Dhabi for a training camp without a player who was barred from the Arab emirate because he is Israeli.
Vitesse Arnhem, which is in second place in the Dutch league, was told a day before it flew to Abu Dhabi on Sunday that defender Dan Mori would not be allowed into the country after being given assurances he would be admitted, club spokeswoman Ester Bal said Monday.
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 UAE.
"Abu Dhabi, come on, let's get real," she said. "If you want to be a member of FIFA, you do not do this."
Speaking by phone from Abu Dhabi, the Vitesse spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the team could not call off its trip because it is to play warmup matches this week against the German teams Wolfsburg and Hamburg.
She said Mori stayed behind to train with the Vitesse reserves and supported the decision to go ahead with its trip to Abu Dhabi.
Mori is not the first athlete barred from entering the UAE.
Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was denied entry for 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.
Peer was admitted to compete in subsequent years.
Other Israelis have been allowed in. 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.