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Saturday, June 10, 2006

World Cup

Walking home from yoga last night (see below), I noticed the telltale Toronto sign the World Cup is on: Groups of men spilling out onto sidewalks outside sports bars, all craning their necks to see the TV screen inside. I think it's great! I actually enjoy World Cup...as sports go. I more or less understand soccer/football, and I like seeing the guys in their little shorts and knee socks -- particularly the very attractive Italian team.
However, there are things about FIFA that are not good. From this article:

Though Israelis are as fanatically interested in the outcome of this tournament as any other non-American population, the federation that governs the cup is as anti-Zionist as the United Nations.The composition of the 32-team tournament varies every four years based on a competition in which national teams contend against others in their region for the precious cup berths.But Israel never gets in because it is not allowed to compete against other teams in the Middle East. Arab nations won't play them.
But rather than disqualify the Arab teams via forfeit, the lords of soccer force the Israelis to compete in the European section of the draw where they are invariably outgunned by the great soccer powers of France, Italy, Spain and Germany.Thus, the talented Israelis will be home watching the games on TV this month while their counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Iran will be in Germany.
It should also be noted in passing that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be in Nuremberg, of all places, to root on his team. Any analogies between the free publicity given this Jew-hating Holocaust denier and Hitler's poses in Berlin will be right on target.

It remains to be seen if Ahmadinejad will show up. I hope to goodness he doesn't. And if he does, I hope the crowd reacts appropriately. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Iran's team barred from the games, not just their president. At least EU lawmakers have attempted to keep the latter out.
As for the actual competition, since Canada and Norway aren't playing, I haven't really any favourites. Well, I have some sentimental attachment to the French team, because of the nearly five years I lived in France. (I remember in 1998 when France won the whole shabang, this city went wild. Who knew there were so many French people here?) I wouldn't mind seeing Japan do well -- again, because of the time I lived there. England winning would make me happy (heck, that would make a LOT of folks happy). Four years ago, one of my former students, from when I lived in Istanbul, was on the Turkish national team! Man, I felt old. This year, the Turks didn't make it. Too bad.
What it comes down to is...anybody but Iran, okay? Enjoy the tournament.

Cross-posted at Wonkitties.

Posted by wonkitties on June 10, 2006 in Sports | Permalink


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My gut reaction is that FIFA should schedule qualifying games between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries and let them forfeit if they want. But one problem with that is that at least some of those games would be away for Israel, and I would think there would be significant concern for the safety of the players. Can you imagine them travelling to Tehran without incident?

A better solution might be to have them compete with Africa for qualification. Geographically it is closer (and they border the mostly African nation of Egypt). But Israel is not a soccer power anyway, so it's not like they are more deserving of a World Cup berth than SA and Iran. According to FIFA, the current world ranking for the top Middle Eastern countries are:

23 Iran
34 Saudi Arabia
49 Israel

For Africa its:

11 Nigeria
15 Cameroon
17 Egypt
21 Tunisia
28 Senegal
32 Côte d'Ivoire
36 Morocco
48 Ghana

I don't know how qualification works because Angola (57) and Togo (61) made it to the final but Nigeria, Cameroon, and Egypt did not. But regardless, Israel fits more naturally in with the African group than Europe, would not have to face the toughest nations to qualify, and would not have to face the personal risks of playing in unfreindly Middle Eastern nations.

Posted by: Mark Logan | 2006-06-10 11:42:47 AM

I hope Iminajihad does go to the World Cup...then maybe some of those football hooligans will kick the crap out of him !

Posted by: MarkAlta | 2006-06-10 4:46:30 PM

Paging Paul Tuns!

In the abscence of Canada and Scotland, I'm cheering for England.

Shotgun readers, who do you think will win?

Posted by: Rick Hiebert | 2006-06-10 5:42:47 PM


Posted by: lwestin | 2006-06-10 6:53:46 PM

How do the German neo Nazis look on the Iranians? Do they see them as kindred spirits, hoping for the destruction of Israel? Or does their perverted, racist nationalism override that? Do they look at Muslims the way they did Jews 60 years ago?

I think very bad things are in Europe's not too distant future. The longer the socialists keep hammering their agenda, the more angry the disenfranchised right will become.

FIFA and all international sports organizations really should use sanctions more. If the whole world is crazy for the World Cup, you probably feel less a part of the world if your country's not there. I think this is an underrated incentive.

Posted by: johnmac | 2006-06-11 2:58:58 PM

I read that Israel actually prefers being in the European area for soccer because they do get to play against countries like Italy and Spain.

Anyway, Israel came very close to making it to the World Cup this year. They didn't lose a game in qualifying, but finished 3rd in their group on goal differential.

As for the Iranians and German racists -- there never appeared to be any rhyme or reason behind which races the Nazis considered to be OK. They allied themselves with the Japanese. Also, remember that Iran means "land of the Aryans." Before 1935, other languages besides Farsi used Persia as the name of the country, but the Persian government changed the policy to please the Nazis, or so the story goes.

Posted by: m1150 | 2006-06-11 3:58:03 PM

Soccer. That's the sport with no scoring and the riots, right? It is nice to know that the U.S. got a team to make it in this year. I thought they only let little countries, like Guam and France, play. Who does the U.S. play first, Saskatoon or Toboggan?

In any case, I think that Angora will win. They make awesome sweaters.


Internationally Clue-Less in tha You Ess.

Posted by: Dan | 2006-06-12 10:13:31 AM

I'm changing my vote to the Czech Republic.

(By the way Dan, that's who the US played first! 3-0 Czechs)

Posted by: lwestin | 2006-06-12 1:01:40 PM

The Czechs only won by three points? Hey, we'll call that a moral victory for the U.S. Might as well. The Democrats have made a habit of the practice!

We should have kicked the field goal instead of going for the game-winning touchdown.

On to important news: did you hear the rumor that Angelina Jolie had a baby?

Posted by: Dan | 2006-06-12 1:34:11 PM

Dan: Come on Dan, of course she had a baby. I think it is on the Angorra soccer team.

Posted by: MarkAlta | 2006-06-12 2:10:09 PM

My bad: I spelled Angora with two r's... :)

Posted by: MarkAlta | 2006-06-12 2:11:18 PM

Anyone see the photo in the National Post, of the Israeli National flag being held up to irritate the Iranians?


Posted by: Lady | 2006-06-12 3:21:16 PM


I heard there was a guy who once saw a goal scored in soccer...

And if I were in Germany I'd try follow the Iranians around all day, along with some of my mates, waving the Israeli flag all over the place.

Seriously though, I'd rather play rugby and lose, than play soccer and win.

Posted by: bcf | 2006-06-12 8:32:00 PM

I'm so glad to see people displaying their uncanadianism as they do when they drivwe through town. waving non canadian flags i doubt there was a lot of that when we had the red ensign.

Posted by: ghollingshead | 2006-06-12 9:48:06 PM


I like your suggestion. Perhaps we can build an anti-islamofacism protest outside the Iranian embassies. It could be 30 Israeli flag signs. Since Vancouver left the Falun Gong signs up for five years, we should expect the same treatment across the country!

Ooh, rugby, now there's a sport I love to watch. Seriousley. Big, gorgeous, powerful men scrambling for a ball, with crowds screaming and yelling, and swet pooring down their well sculpted bodies....

Posted by: Lady | 2006-06-13 10:12:52 AM

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