Israel: World Cup Bonanza – Back to the Game

Dear Readers of Global Voices, however much I wanted to bring you a post on the World Cup from the Israeli blogosphere, I am foiled by a minor dilemma. You see, it seems that most Israeli World Cup fans are too busy watching the games to blog about it. So I bring you a sampling of three.

Cultural Perspectives

Photo Credit: Marcp_dmoz via Flickr

First is David of the Israelity blog. David identifies himself as “one of those one percent of the Israeli male population” who does not watch, and is thus able to report back on the excitement. He writes:

“Israel, which hasn’t qualified for the seemingly endless tournament since 1970, goes crazy at World Cup time. Restaurants and bars offer special deals and fill up with rowdy patrons, and if you go outside in your neighborhood, you can hear the irritating buzz of the Vuvuzelas, the South African noisemakers in the shape of trumpets which fans blast through every game, coming out of the TVs of every house on the block…

Even people who don’t normally follow soccer join the bandwagon at World Cup time, rooting for their native country or a favorite of theirs. The topic of whom should Israelis get behind was treated with irreverence by Jerusalem Post reporter Gil Hoffman last week, who went through all 32 participating countries, and their affronts to Israel and the Jewish people, before tongue in cheek concluding that the only teams worth backing were the US, Holland and Denmark.”

David concludes:

“If everyone likes something so much, there has to be something wrong with it. I’ll wait until 2019 when Israel makes it in again.”

Our second cultural ambassador is Benji Lovitt of What War Zone??? who does not add much insight to our investigation (perhaps he had to get back to the game), but simply posts an entry entitled:

“If the US Wins the World Cup, I'm Naming my First-Born Vuvuzela.”

My dear readers, you are free to root for the US or not. I'll update you in 9 months as to whether Lovitt stood by his claim.

And what would the sugar of sports and entertainment be without the spice of regional conflict?

Elder of Ziyon responds to the news that Israeli World Cup coverage is being provided in Hebrew and Arabic. He references an article in Palestine Today [Ar], writing:

“Gazans are scrambling to find ways that they can watch the World Cup. Al Jazeera is scrambling its World Cup signal and requires that viewers pay for the right to watch it. It is unclear from the article whether Gazans are unable or unwilling to pay, so they are trying alternative means to receive the games…

The article then mentions that “the occupying power” is providing World Cup coverage in Arabic for free, alongside its Hebrew coverage. It is hiring senior Arab sports analysts for these broadcasts.

But rather than showing appreciation for this move, the article says that this is being done to steal Arab viewers away from the Al Jazeera coverage!”

…Arabs might privately appreciate and respect what Israel does, but the culture is set up so that it is inconceivable that this private appreciation will ever translate into the public sphere.

[For a link to the article referenced, please see the original blog post.]

Israel's World Cup History

Mattjew of Blogs of Zion, posting in 2008 in a long build-up to the 2010 World Cup festivities, offers us an historical perspective. He teaches us that Israel's only official foray into World Cup play was in the Mexican games of 1970, but that we were defeated in the first round. Israel's next taste of championship play was in the finals of 2006 in Germany, but the team failed to make the qualifying rounds.

As an addendum shedding light on Arab and Israeli play, Mattjew adds:

“Groupings for the World Cup soccer qualifying matches depend on location. It is obvious that Israel has been lumped into European soccer play since 1948 because of one reason, FIFA is too nervous to handle and be responsible for a potential match between an Arab or Muslim country against the State of Israel. The Arab nations have always had trouble playing the European top notch national teams whereas Israel can hold their own and have proven so in 1970 and 2005. If Israel were in their rightful groupings they probably would have made it to the Finals of World Cup play many times in the past 60 years.”

Bnei Sakhnin – Team Logo

Strangely, Israel's World Cup blog has been silent since May. Their last entry was a review of the film “After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United,” which chronicles the story of a mixed Arab and Jewish soccer team that won the European State Cup in 2004 (the same team referenced above). Author Ibracadabra explains:

“The film asks…what’s next for a team fielding Arab, Jewish, and foreign-born players, owned by an Arab, coached by a Jew – and symbolically representing the over 1.4 million Arabs who are citizens of Israel?”

He speaks to the universality of the film, to which any devoted fan can relate:

“Soccer clubs and rivalries are rooted in politics. In religion. In cultural identity. We can’t escape that. And in this film, [Director Christopher] Browne doesn’t attempt to escape that. But the film does a surprisingly amazing job of actually not letting politics take over. And that’s refreshing. Sure, the backdrop is a conflict in the Middle East but the film focuses on the little things – the obsessive fan, the under stress Captain (Abbas Suan), the owner with pride, the local small town broadcaster / anchorman who is a strange figure of fun – “The day of the game, I can not even eat, I can not even speak, only smoking and drinking coffee,” – and the coach stuck in the middle of it all…

Read More

As for this author, I'm signing off with the sound of vuvuzelas ringing in my ears. To read more, check out Global Voices Online's special World Cup coverage section.

Photo Credits

1. Real Madrid stadium (2009) by Marcp_Dmoz via Flickr with Creative Commons license

2. Sakhnin United (Bnei Sakhnin) team logo sourced from Wikimedia Commons with Creative Commons license

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