Varadkar comments on Keane's involvement with Israel football club

Varadkar comments on Keane's involvement with Israel football club

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has asserted that former Ireland player Robbie Keane's involvement with the Israeli football club Maccabi Tel Aviv is a "matter for him."

Keane joined the Israeli club six months ago as the manager, facing criticism for continuing in this role amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The October 7 attacks have reignited the decades-long feud between the countries, resulting in hundreds of thousands of casualties in the conflict. Israel has faced condemnation for its role, with many political figures calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be tried as a war criminal.

Individuals associated with Israeli businesses and sports clubs have also faced scrutiny for not distancing themselves from the conflict. Keane was one of these individuals questioned about his position but declined to address the sensitive topic this year, stating, "This is the last time I will say it. I’m here as a football man and someone who loves the game. I will certainly just focus on that."

Last week, Keane faced criticism from Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald for continuing to manage the Israeli side during the ongoing issue. McDonald, when asked about Ireland's record goal scorer, expressed her disapproval, saying,

"No, I don't think he has and I know some people say sport and politics shouldn't mix. I think sport should be a force for good, for human capacity and human excellence and enjoyment and participation,"she said last week.

Robbie Keane

"I have a real problem with sport when it is under the remit of an apartheid regime and where genocide is being committed.

"I know lots and lots of sportspeople in Ireland and beyond have taken an incredibly firm stand on the Palestinian question, just as lots of sporting people did—and I'm thinking our rugby team, rugby players in particular—in respect of apartheid South Africa.

"I think leaders have to lead in times like this, and I think sporting people, sporting heroes, have such an influence and such a reach.

"So I would encourage everybody of influence to make the right calls and the right choices," she added to The Irish Examiner.

This week, Varadkar was asked about Keane's continued links with his current side and said it was up to him what he chose to do in terms of his managerial jobs.

Varadkar also refused to criticise Israel for its role in the country and stated that demonising a whole country was not the best form of action.

"I think primarily that’s a matter for him," he said this week. "He was offered a job, and he’s taken it up in Tel Aviv. I suppose… There are a lot of very good people in Israel who want there to be peace, who want justice for Palestinians, and who want there to be a two-state solution.

"That used to be the majority; they are now the minority," he added. "I think they can be the majority again, and I’m not convinced that demonising and ostracising an entire country and an entire nation of people is actually the best way to achieve what we are trying to achieve."