Did a Spanish football coach avoid shaking hands with an Israeli delegate?

We came across several posts on X and TikTok with the claim that world-acclaimed football coach, Pep Guardiola, avoided shaking hands with an Israeli delegate.

The posts include a video that shows Guardiola, dressed in a white shirt, shaking the hands of several males in suits and failing to shake the hands of a male who is circled and has an Israeli flag superimposed on him in the video.

Posts circulating the video claim that this video serves as a sign that the Spanish coach has taken a stance against Israel in relation to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

When did the snub happen?

Watching the various videos of the incident that have been posted on social media, after snubbing the alleged Israeli representative, Guardiola then receives a medal, and proceeds to exit the gallery. Based on this observation, it appears that the video was taken from the famous Royal Box at Wembley, after a losing effort from Manchester City in a cup final.

Unlike other stadiums, where medal presentations happen on the pitch, the ceremony at Wembley takes place in the stands, and walking up the Wembley steps has become an iconic dream for British footballers.

The video currently circulating on social media has emerged just days after the football club that Guardiola manages, Manchester City, lost in the FA Cup final to bitter rivals Manchester United at Wembley, and insinuates that the clip was taken from the medal presentation ceremony.

The FA Cup final took place on 25 May 2024, just hours after news emerged of renewed Israeli airstrikes on the city of Rafah in the Gazan strip.

Who did Guardiola snub?

We ran a reverse image search on screenshots taken from the video clips circulating on social media. The clip was taken after the 2023 FA Community Shield football match, that took place on 6 August 2023, where Manchester City lost to Arsenal.

Media reports following the match identified the male who was snubbed as former Crystal Palace manager, Alan Smith. Smith also uploaded a photograph of him during the medal presentation ceremony to his X account, which matches the posts circulating on social media.

While there is little information regarding animosity between the two men, some, including Smith himself, have postulated that Guardiola mistook the Englishman for a member of Arsenal’s entourage. Others suggest that Guardiola was frustrated with the outcome of the match, rather than with Smith in particular, after controversial new injury-time rules were introduced, and a last-gasp goal from Arsenal sank his team’s hopes of lifting the Community Shield for the seventh time.

Smith, who is English, and not a known supporter of Israel, has thus been mislabelled as an Israeli official in the videos circulating on social media. Therefore, the claim that Guardiola snubbed an Israeli official is false.

This particular claim holds an added layer of weight, given that Abu Dhabi royal, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is a majority owner of Manchester City. Under his ownership, claims have been widespread that Manchester City has been used as a sportswashing tool for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the club’s success being employed to divert attention from the country’s unethical conduct.

While not tied to the Emirati regime specifically, Guardiola’s position as the manager of their most prized football club means his conduct could be interpreted as reflecting the nation’s stance on the conflict. To date, the UAE has been the most open among Arab nations to establishing diplomatic and economic ties with Israel. As recently as February 2024, the UAE was made to defend its relationship with Israel, amid the ongoing conflict.

A frosty reception from Manchester City brass, including Guardiola, towards any Israeli representative would signify a shift in that dynamic not only to the club’s supporters but to the wider world outside of football as well. It is emblematic of politics influencing sport and, to some extent, vice versa.

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