Category: Middle East

When Kanoute scored and Iraq exploded—a Spurs' supporter's prison diary

When Kanoute scored and Iraq exploded—a Spurs’ supporter’s prison diary

Held captive for 3,080 days during the Iran-Iraq war, Emad Nimah‘s “grief was made worse due to total ignorance of how Tottenham were getting on.”

Palestinian soccer drama—‘Team' building for social change

Palestinian soccer drama—‘Team’ building for social change

Looking beyond imbroglios in the changing room, Palestinian media group Ma’an in The Team creates a football-based “soap opera for social change.”

Settling Palestinian question in '90-minute war'

Settling Palestinian question in ’90-minute war’

In Itay Meirson‘s first novel, Milchemet Tisheem Hadakot (The 90-Minute War), the intractable Middle Eastern dispute over Palestine is decided in one football match. The winning team keeps the Holy Land. The losers get eastern Oregon.

For 3 days in Tel Aviv, football becomes more than metaphor

As part of a broader cultural exchange, Israel hosts an international Writers’ League tournament, including England and Germany, from Dec 14–16. A side of Israeli authors reprises a May friendly against Germany in Berlin, during which novelist Assaf Gavron confirmed his intuition that Germans do not miss penalties. (Dec 12)

Cinema | Attempting Jewish-Arab reconciliation in a 10-minute game

The second installment, from Jerusalem, from Gwendolyn Oxenham‘s diaries supporting an in-process documentary film, The Soccer Project, about four recent college graduates and their pursuit of improvisational soccer matches around the world.

Visual arts | Defeating the forces of Babylon through love and soccer

Using red-clad players and supporters from local side Hapoel Tel Aviv as leitmotif, artist and autodidact Ido Shemi shows how benevolent objectives might be achieved through humor, creativity and football.

Cinema | In ‘Tiro libre,’ walls of separation and misunderstanding

A film conceived by Chileans about the aspirations of Palestine’s national team has stirred a Chicago film festival—at least judging by an 11-page torrent of comments that debates which filmmaker deserves credit for the idea and which has the more authoritative connections to justice struggles (Ed M. Koziarski, “Social Justice, with Soccer,” Chicago Reader, Apr 3).

Religion | Holocaust-era exile haunts Chelsea manager’s father

In an interview Jan 11 with the Jewish Chronicle of London, Meir Granat—father of Chelsea manager Avram Grant—details the displacement and death that met the Hasidic family in wartime Europe (Simon Griver, “Shoah Horrors That Haunt Avram Grant”). (Jan 11)

Women’s football | The hard playing surface of Palestine (w/ video)

Bethlehem, West Bank, Jan 11 | The statement of the biblical Ruth, the Moabite, a poor woman gleaning in Bethlehem (“house of bread”) behind reapers of barley strikes a parallel with the women’s football team from Palestine, taking its passion and pleasure from scraps left by a patriarchal culture and occupying authorities.

Supporters | Alienation from society, as sung from Israel’s terraces

In conversation on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS on Dec 31, Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar notes the rising popularity of Yigal Amir, the assassin in 1995 of former Israel prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Television viewers and spectators at the Maccabi Haifa–Beitar Jerusalem match on 4 Nov 07 heard the evidence loud and clear. (Jan 5)

Israel | Bnei Sakhnin, by cultivating football, hopes to harvest peace

A small Arab Israeli town of 25,000 residents, nestled in a lower Galilee valley among fig and olive orchards, with an illustrious history and a difficult present, has become world famous within the past three years—all thanks to its soccer team.

A new documentary film, Sons of Sakhnin United, examines Bnei Sakhnin’s place as a bridge builder in divided Israel.

Pride of lions | Iraqi Asian Cup victory reminds a civilization what ‘normal’ feels like

Baghdad, Aug 9 | A triumphant march through the Asian Cup tournament in July contributed to the resurgence of the Arabic phrase Assood al-Rafidain (Lions of Mesopotamia) to refer to the Iraqi national football team.

“It’s a way of labeling them with this unifying and historic cultural icon,” says Newsweek Baghdad correspondent Larry Kaplow, who appeared on our Aug 7 podcast. Rising above divisions by ethnicity and sect, the Iraqi team, which trains and plays matches in Jordan, defeated Saudi Arabia 1–0 on Jul 29 to lift the Asian Cup for the first time.

Occupied territories | For Palestinian women, a field is a dream

Articles on the Palestinian Territories national women’s soccer team, on tensions at Heart of Midlothian in Edinburgh, on the run on £5 notes depicting George Best, and on the assassination of a Sunni Arab soccer official in Baghdad.

Cinema | ‘Futbol Palestina 2006′

22 Apr 05 | Body searches, travel restrictions, arrests and martial law are not conditions usually associated with international football. These however have been familiar realities for members of the Palestinian national team. In spite of daunting odds, these players have succeeded in representing their nation. Futbol Palestina 2006, Nelson Soza and Marcelo Piña‘s (left) film in progress, is a record of the players’ struggles, determination and pride. See also “In ‘Tiro Libre,’ Walls of Separation and Misunderstanding” (Apr 23) »