Germany 4, Israel 2 in buildup to Word Cup (not a typo)

Editor’s note

As part of a broader cultural exchange, Israel hosts an international Writers’ League tournament, including England and Germany, from Dec 14–16 (see 19 Dec 08). Deutscher Fußball-Bund president Theo Zwanziger leads a delegation to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel and to commemorate sporting contacts that helped build cultural and diplomatic relations between the two countries in the 1950s and ’60s.

“It was sport that first … led to a change in the way Germany was viewed by a large part of the Israeli population,” Zwanziger says. “Football played a decisive role in this process.”

The Israeli writers play England and Germany, the latter a rematch of the May friendly that Assaf Gavron describes below. On Dec 16, Israeli and German authors feature in a reading and discussion co-sponsored by the Goethe Institut in Tel Aviv and FAs from the two countries. The writers, according to the German Foreign Ministry, will also visit peace centers, school groups and the Holocaust monument Yad Vashem.

In addition to matches involving authors, Borussia Mönchengladbach plays an exhibition against Makkabi Netanya, coached by Lothar Matthäus, as part of the three-day commemoration. Germany’s U18 team competes against Israel, Finland and Romania.

Poets, children’s-book authors, comics creators, magazine editors, playwrights and novelists, including Gavron (number 10), filled out the Israel writers XI at the 6 May friendly. (With thanks to Mordechai Alon, Glory Publishing)

I can’t truly say that on a lovely spring day last May, when I led 11 Israeli writers and poets in blue shirts and with heads held up high onto the green grass of a soccer pitch in Berlin; when I exchanged flags with the German captain, shook hands with the German Foreign Minister, moved my lips with the national anthem—I can’t truly say that my excited thoughts wandered back to the moment it all began. But it would make sense to insert a flashback at this point, so here we go:

6 September 2007

Dear Etgar Keret, I am a member of the German writer’s national soccer team, we were third in the European “word cup” in Sweden this year, which had a huge resonance in the media. Now, following my thesis that the game makes politics often look stupid, when Iran plays USA or England plays Argentina, showing we can be different and equal at the same time, we are planning something with more input and would love to invite a team from Israel. What do you think? Any soccer-playing writers in Israel? We talked to the Government today, and things are beginning to move.

Yours truly, Ralf Bönt

Page 1 of 4 | Next page