Sports

October 18, 2023

Nice suspend defender Atal for alleged anti-Semitic post

Nice suspend defender Atal for alleged anti-Semitic post

Ligue 1 side Nice suspended Algerian international Youcef Atal “until further notice” on Wednesday after he shared a controversial post on social media linked to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

Even though he quickly deleted the post and apologised, the club said in a press release that, given the “seriousness” of the post, it was taking immediate disciplinary action “prior to any action that may be taken by the sporting and legal authorities”.

French prosecutors on Monday launched a preliminary investigation into Atal on suspicion of “glorifying terrorism”.

Atal, 27, was called into a meeting with the club hierarchy following his return from international duty with Algeria, during which period he made the post.

“We would like to emphasise that the reputation and unity of OGC Nice depends on the behaviour of all of its employees, who must be in accordance with the values defended by the institution,” said the club, adding its “firm commitment to ensuring that peace prevails over all other considerations”.

Atal has been widely criticised since Saturday for sharing a video from a Palestinian preacher on Instagram, purportedly calling for violence against Jewish people.

Football officials, politicians, a Jewish group and the mayor of Nice have all condemned the message, which Atal deleted before apologising.

AFP has not been able to independently verify the content of the original post.

France, which has large Jewish and Muslim populations, ramped up security after Hamas launched a massive attack on Israel on October 7.

And officials put the country on high alert for potential attacks after a teacher was stabbed to death on Friday by a former pupil, in what politicians have said was Islamist terrorism.

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 prosecutors said police would also assess if the post amounted to incitement to religious hatred or violence.

The South East branch of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) filed a complaint against the player on Tuesday.

The French Football Federation (FFF) has not commented since saying on Sunday its ethics committee would investigate the player.

Atal responded to the criticism, telling his Instagram followers he would “never support a message of hate”, without explaining why he had shared the video.