Ireland football team turned to face flag, not 'snub' Israel national anthem

Ireland's women's under-17 football team turned to face their national flag ahead of a match with Israel, contrary to news reports and social media posts that claimed they snubbed Israel's national anthem over the Gaza war. Footage from the game shows both teams facing the same direction as Israel's "Hatikvah" plays. The Irish players only turned to face their flag when their own anthem started.

"The Irish national women's team turned their backs while the Israeli national anthem was playing, which has been widely criticised in Hebrew media," reads a Bengali-language Facebook post shared on February 25.

"Bravo to the Irish women's football team."

The photo shows players and referees lined up on the pitch. The Irish team, wearing green jerseys, are facing the opposite direction to everyone else.

<span>Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on March 19, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on March 19, 2024

The photo was shared in similar posts on Facebook and X. Israel's Ynetnews website also falsely claimed the photo showed Ireland "protesting Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip".

Tensions over the Israel-Gaza war have spilled over into the sporting world, with Israeli athletes facing a hostile reception at various events.

In February, Israeli Anastasia Gorbenko was booed at the world swimming championships in Qatar. It came days after the Ireland women's basketball team refused to shake hands with Israeli players ahead of a game in Latvia.

The war was triggered by Hamas's unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages. Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel's retaliatory military campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed at least 31,988 people, most of them women and children, Gaza's health ministry says.

However, the photo does not show the Irish women's football team snubbing Israel's national anthem.

Facing the flag

A keyword search in Google found the photo in an article by the Irish Mirror newspaper from February 23 (archived link).

It quoted the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) rejecting allegations that the team turned its back when the Israeli national anthem played at the match that day in Tirana, Albania.

"The Football Association of Ireland would like to correct a misinterpretation that our Ireland Women's Under 17 team turned their back during the opposition's national anthem ahead of their UEFA Women's Under-17 European Championship fixture with Israel in Tirana today," the statement said.

"Both teams were facing in the same direction during the Israeli national anthem before the Ireland team turned to face the tricolour, as is tradition amongst many Irish teams, for the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann before turning back to conclude the usual pre-match protocols."

The Irish Independent and Irish Times also published the FAI's statement (archived links here and here).

full video of the match -- which was live-streamed by the Albanian Football Association -- shows both teams facing the same direction as Israel's national anthem "Hatikvah" played (archived link).

The Irish team turned around when their own national anthem was about to start, as seen at the video's 4:06 mark.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in false posts (left) and the same frame from a video of the match (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison of the image used in the false posts (left) and the same frame from a video of the match (right)</span>
Screenshot comparison of the image used in the false posts (left) and the same frame from a video of the match (right)

Ireland won the match 3-0.

AFP has debunked more misinformation around the Israel-Gaza war here.