The backlash comes as Qatar-based pro-Palestinian group urges local football clubs to boycott Puma due to its involvement with Israel.
Al Rayyan Sports Club has come under fire for signing a contract with Puma for the 2021 despite national outrage over the manufacturer’s compliance with the Israeli occupation and widespread calls to boycott the brand.
The local sports club announced in a tweet on Wednesday that Puma will be its sponsor for the 2021 season, sparking outrage online with many accusing the club of “siding with the Zionists.”
Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation [QAYON] had earlier called for boycotting Puma, urging football fans to apply pressure on their local clubs due to its involvement with Israel.
The youth group took action against the global sportswear manufacturer following the deadly attacks on Gaza in May, in which Israel killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children.
QAYON then sent a total of seven separate letters to each of the local Qatari teams which don Puma kits but failed to receive a response from six of them.
In each letter, the group acknowledged each team’s support to Palestinians, including public acts of solidarity on the pitch, and explained the reasons behind the global boycott movement against Puma.
“[Puma] is involved in supporting the crimes of the occupying Zionist entity. This is exemplified by its sponsorship of the Football Association, which represents the occupation, and of a number of Zionist entity’s clubs that practice their activities in the settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories,” read one part of the letter.
The letter went on to explain the importance of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement in light of recent Israeli attacks on Palestinians, noting that more than 200 other sports clubs have called on Puma to disengage from the Israeli Football Association.
“We regret that not all of these clubs responded to the messages, and therefore we call on everyone involved in the resistance movement against Zionist settlements to contact these clubs and demand that they cancel their contracts with Puma, which supports the settlers, or not to renew their contracts in the future,” tweeted the group on Saturday.
The group also called for acting under Law No. 13] of 1963 of the Office for Boycott of Israel in Qatar, which prohibits any agreement with agencies or individuals residing or working for Tel Aviv.
“Puma is an example of a company operating in the interest of an occupying entity,” added the group’s latest statement.
Following national outrage, Qatar Sports Club responded saying it has no plans to renew its contract with global sportswear manufacturer Puma amid local and international calls for boycott.
“We would like to inform you that Qatar Sports Club’s contract with Puma expired at the end of the 2020/2021 sports season, and the club doesn’t plan on renewing it for the next season,” said the local sports club in a direct message on Instagram to Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation [QAYON], a local independent pro-Palestine youth body.
Backlash against Al Rayyan SC
However, the topic emerged once more on Wednesday after Al Rayyan SC announced in a post online that the club will “wear Puma in 2021”.
Social media users quickly took to Twitter to call out the club for what they said is “siding with those complicit with the Zionists”. The criticism led to threats to boycott the Qatari local club if no action is taken to drop the sponsor.
“Shame on you! As most people call for club to ditch their contracts with Puma, Al Rayyan SC signs a deal with those complicit with Zionists,” one Twitter user said.
In another tweet, one user highlighted how the club had shown support for Palestinians during the May offensive.
“You couldn’t say Palestine in our hearts and then have Puma as your sponsor,” the user said.
“Tone deaf AND proud??” another user tweeted.
Puma’s Israeli involvement
According to the global Boycott Divest & Sanctions Movement [BDS], Puma is the only international sponsor of the Israel Football Association [IFA], which hosts six clubs in Israeli settlements in the West Bank deemed illegal under international law.
This enables clubs to play games on unlawfully seized lands belonging to Palestinians, who are prohibited from entering to participate in any sporting activity.
Its involvement in supporting the forced dispossession of Palestinians and the illegal occupation constitutes a clear violation of human rights. Funding Israel further allows it to carry out its injustices against Palestinians and expand its settlements.
Contrary to its involvement in the illegal Israeli occupation, the brand says it has “the responsibility” to ensure that its products are “manufactured in decent workplaces where human rights are respected”.
BDS says Puma’s exclusive licensee in Israel, Al Srad Ltd., has an outlet in the “no man’s land” surrounding East Jerusalem, an area that is part of Israel’s illegal settlement-annexation enterprise.
In addition to land theft, Palestinian athletes face obstacles when participating in competitions in their own lands and abroad, while also struggling to find places to play due to the destruction that Israel regularly carries out in Palestinian lands.
There are over 150 Israeli settlements in Palestine, over 128 outposts, and over 750,000 settlers living in stolen houses.
Palestinians continue to face forced dispossessions in several areas, including most recently in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.