South Africa have stripped David Teeger of the captaincy ahead of the Under-19 Cricket World Cup amid fears he could be targeted by anti-war protesters.
Cricket South Africa (CSA), who are hosting the tournament that begins next week, have been slammed for the controversial move.
Teeger, 19, was last month cleared of any wrongdoing following comments he made in support of Israeli soldiers at an awards ceremony in October.
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“I’m now the rising star, but the true rising stars are the young soldiers in Israel. And I’d like to dedicate it to the state of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora,” he said after being recognised at the Jewish Achiever Awards.
The comments drew the ire of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), who lodged a complaint with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
Teeger was cleared by an independent inquiry, but his demotion comes as the South African government has levelled an accusation of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and CSA say they fear keeping the 19-year-old as captain could inflame tensions during the tournament.
“We have been advised that protests related to the war in Gaza can be anticipated at the venues for the tournament,” CSA said in a statement on Friday.
“We have also been advised that they are likely to focus on the position of the SA Under-19 captain David Teeger, and that there is a risk that they could result in conflict or even violence, including between rival groups of protestors.
“In the circumstances, CSA has decided that David should be relieved of the captaincy for the tournament. This is in the best interests of all the players, the SA U19 team and David himself.”
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CSA confirmed that Teeger remains a part of the squad.
“David will remain an important and active member of the squad and we wish him and the team every success in the tournament.”
“The newly appointed captain will be announced in due course,” the statement concluded.
Outspoken British media personality Piers Morgan was fuming with the decision.
“WTF!? Have they sacked him because he’s Jewish? This is shameful moral cowardice by Cricket South Africa,” he tweeted.
Karen Milner, the national chair of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, delivered a stern statement in response.
“The decision by Cricket South Africa to relieve David Teeger of his Under-19 captaincy of the World Cup team starting next week in South Africa is an outrageous act of antisemitism,” Milner said.
“There is no basis for this decision, other than the fact that Teeger is Jewish.
“This is not the first time that Jews have been excluded from sporting bodies in our history. The SAJBD will do everything in its power to fight against this vicious prejudice.”
The under-19 Cricket World Cup was moved to South Africa after original host Sri Lanka was suspended by the ICC last year.
South Africa open their campaign against West Indies on January 19, while they are also in a group with Scotland and England.
Meanwhile, Australia have been grouped with Zimbabwe, Namibia and Sri Lanka.
– With Reuters.