Ireland women’s basketball team refused to shake hands with Israel before their EuroBasket 2025 qualifier in Riga.

Israel player Dor Saar said on Wednesday that the Ireland team is “quite anti-Semitic”.

Basketball Ireland said the comments were “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate”.

Ireland players also lined up for their anthem beside the team’s bench rather than the centre of the court before the game, which Israel won 87-57.

Basketball Ireland said in a statement before the start of the match that the team would not take part in “traditional pre-match arrangements”.

In the lead-up to the game Israel coach Sharon Drucker said Ireland “did not respect” what the game symbolises after Irish players expressed concern about playing.

Basketball Ireland has reported Saar’s comments to European basketball’s governing body Fiba Europe.

The match, which was moved to Riga because of the ongoing war in Gaza, went ahead despite Basketball Ireland facing pressure to boycott the fixture.

Irish Sport for Palestine had called for the boycott over the Israel-Gaza war.

Earlier in the week, Basketball Ireland chief executive John Feehan said the Irish team would face heavy fines and expulsion from the competition if the team boycotted their fixtures with Israel.

He suggested a boycott would “destroy our women’s international game for the next 10 years”.

Basketball Ireland’s statement prior to the start of the game read: “Basketball Ireland informed Fiba Europe yesterday that as a direct result of recent comments made by Israeli players and coaching staff – including inflammatory and wholly inaccurate accusations of anti-Semitism, published on official Israeli Federation channels – that our players will not be partaking in traditional pre-match arrangements with our upcoming opponents.

“This includes exchanging of gifts, formal handshakes before or after the game, while our players will line up for the Irish national anthem by our bench rather than centre court.

“Basketball Ireland fully supports our players in their decision.”

In an interview on the Israeli Basketball Association’s website, United States-based student Saar said: “It’s known that they are quite anti-semitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected.

“We have to show that we’re better than them and win. We talk about it among ourselves. We know they don’t love us and we will leave everything on the field always and in this game especially.”

About 1,300 people were killed during the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on 7 October last year.

More than 27,700 Palestinians have been killed and at least 65,000 injured by the war launched by Israel since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Source BBC