Further to this open letter, Bradford City have responded and stated they “welcome everyone and everybody at their football club”. Shame their MP probably wouldn’t agree!
Dear Mr Lawn and Mr Rhodes,
I am a lifelong Sunderland supporter who spent last Tuesday evening closely following the FA Cup fourth round replay between Fulham and Sunderland, from my home in the city of Modi’in, in the State of Israel.
As you can imagine, having dominated the opening half-hour of the game yet conceding a goal against the run of play, I was beginning to think that once again, luck was not on Sunderland’s side and any chances of FA Cup glory were, once again, slipping away. Even at the start of the second half, when Sunderland were again dominating the game, the goals would just not come. I was just thinking that this was turning into another one of those all too familiar, cold, dark, miserable, midweek trips to the capital for our dedicated fans, when suddenly our luck changed and a speculative cross from Van Aanholt was fumbled by the Fulham Goalkeeper, and the ball found its way into the back of the net.
You can imagine my total elation that the team I have supported man and boy went on to win the game, securing a place in the fifth round of this most prestigious of tournaments, a tie in which we will play against none other than your team, Bradford City Football Club.
I was especially excited as the fixture is scheduled for a Sunday, rather than a Saturday afternoon, enabling me, as a Sabbath observant Jew, to watch, or even attend the game.
Now, as I am sure you can appreciate, like Bradford City, Sunderland (despite the die-hard belief and numerous songs testifying that we are the greatest in the world), is a team of perennial mediocrity at best, and as we again struggle for survival in the Premier League, getting to the later stages of the FA Cup may well turn out to be the highlight of the season (except for when we beat Newcastle… again).
So, to be drawn against the lowest ranked team left in the competition (yes okay you did beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but I am hoping that was a one off) means that I can look forward to the match with a modicum of optimism. You cannot deny that even taking into account the well-publicized “less than ideal” condition of the Valley Parade pitch, Sunderland have a reasonable chance of making it into the Quarter Finals.
Pretty exciting stuff for a Sunderland fan!
Enough excitement in fact for me to consider making a trip to England to see the game.
Unfortunately my excitement turned to despair within seconds, as I recalled comments made just a few short months ago by the Bradford’s member of parliament, one George Galloway. I remembered him saying that Israelis were not welcome in Bradford. Even though I hold dual nationality, and was born and brought up on England’s north-east coast, as I live in Israel, and proudly hold an Israeli passport, I guess I am not welcome – and therefore it is unlikely I would be able to make my way to Valley Parade to enjoy an afternoon of sporting delights.
So, before I cancel all plans of attending the match, I am writing to you to check whether or not I would indeed be welcome in your city, and in your football ground. I hope you will be able to clarify this issue, and hope you will take the opportunity to make a strong stand against those who would silence dialogue and coexistence, in the place of boycotts and division.
While I await your answer, I, along with the vast majority of Israeli parents (Jews, Christian, and Muslims), will continue to educate my children about the importance of peace and equality… except with Newcastle fans of course.