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Two football stories

Very little football in my life, as I’m in meetings roughly 16 hours a day. (Okay, that’s not quite true – three friends and I broke away for a Turkish bath and kebab last night…) But it’s hard to cheer for matches when Soros is on stage without feeling a bit rude. But two World Cup stories…

– Walking in the Spice Market the other day, I noticed that stalls were selling football jerseys next to the spice, pastrima and knicknack stalls. I thought perhaps I could pick up a US team jersey for less than I’d pay at the Amsterdam airport, where a white jersey was 65€. (And besides, I wanted blue.) The first three stalls had tons of Brazil, Czech, Italian, English and Argentine jerseys, as well as jerseys of top Champions League sides. In the fourth stall, I asked the owner whether he had any US jerseys. He shook his head no, then paused and said, “US is not very popular.” Hard to know if this was a reflection on football kit sales, or on international relations.

– The panel I led yesterday on citizen journalism began at 4pm, right at the opening kickoff of Serbia/Montenegro versus Argentina. I thanked everyone for attending despite the match going on, and announced the halftime score at the midpoint of the panel: 3-0 in favor of Argentina. One of my co-panelists leaned over and pointed out that several audience members were Serbs, and that perhaps I shouldn’t rub it in. When the game ended with a 6-0 thrashing of SM, I decided to keep my mouth shut… but immediately, a friend in the front row yelled out, “6-0 Argentina!”. Which set one of the audience members to moaning and asking me if I wouldn’t mind hacking into Turkish satellite TV to ensure that the replay didn’t air so he could be spared a second embarrasment…

It’s tricky to cheer for matches here without hurting someone’s feelings as there’s a good five dozen nations represented here. And lots of folks have complex histories, and are rooting for the seven nations they’ve lived in in the past as ardently as I’m rooting for Ghana. (And for my commenters who wonder if I’ve changed allegiance and abandoned the US after the Czech debacle… no, I’ve been rooting for the US and Ghana throughout, and I’ll root for whichever one has the chance to advance when they face off. If they’re both 0-2-0 for that match, I’ll root for Ghana as a) I’ve got the shirt and b) Hank will be rooting for the US, so we can yell at each other…

And one more for good measure – my friend Daoud Kuttab, founder of Ammannet, told me that his radio station scored a pretty amazing World Cup coup. They got the radio rights to the cup… which was pretty exciting, but got very exciting when Jordanians discovered the only affordable TV broadcasts they could get from matches were on Turkish League satellite TV… and were commented in Turkish. So many Jordanians are watching the matches on Turkish TV with the sound turned down and listening to the Arabic commentary on Ammannet!

7 thoughts on “Two football stories”

  1. A great match by Ghana, they totally shocked Czech. They could have won 3-0 or 4-0, but they lost a *lot* of easy chances. If they continued to play at this level they can easily beat U.S.

    P.S. What’s the story with this player from Ghana (No.15) who was carrying the Israel flag?

  2. It was great fun, wasn’t it, Ahmed? The US looked so bad in their match against Italy, I think Ghana can get past them if they continue to play as aggresively. (Then again, get more aggressive and they’ll have men sent off…)

    #15 for Ghana is John Pantsil. He plays for Hapoel Tel-Aviv and has played in Israel since 2002. I think the flag was intented as respect for the country where he lives and plays his football, not a larger political statement.

  3. Yes, Ghana can get past the US easily with a performance like this, but who knows? This group was full of surprises so far, and we won’t know who’s thru before the last round.

    But you have no idea how such gesture by the player was received in the Arab World. Many people felt offended by the player’s move.

  4. I can imagine, Ahmed. I hope people will write about it – it will be a good chance for Ghanaians to explain that they’re folks who are very proud of the nation they’re from and often very proud of the nations they live and work in as well. One thing always remains true: football gives us lots to talk about across international borders and cultural lines.

  5. I don’t know, I can’t speak for Arab people. But for me the position of FIFA was not convincing at all. Few years ago, FIFA banned players from showing messages/pictures under their shirts, and this time they have no problem with the showing of a flag for a country not even in the World Cup, even if it was not meant to make any political effect. Some Arabs suggested that Saudi Arabia and Tunisia players should carry the Palestinian flag as a reaction. How about that now? Have the World Cup become a place to make political statements?

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