Against the odds, Shirim Veshe’arim – Songs and Goals – is alive and kicking.
Forty years after Gideon Hod brought the concept of a program dedicated to
Saturday soccer matches to Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, the show is still
broadcast weekly on the country’s airwaves, and remains in a league of its
It has outlived the age of the transistor radio, with which it was
so identified, and its name, signature tune and the explosive boom sound
signaling a “g-oo- o-a-l” are instantly recognizable to the vast majority of
Its history involves a series of ups and downs that mirrors
many of the clubs whose fates and fortunes it has followed, but one thing is for
certain: Shirim Veshe’arim
is more than a radio program, it is an essential part
of Israeli culture. In fact, it is such a part of Israeli life that the iconic
Hagashash Hahiver comedy team devoted sketches to it and catchphrases such as
(a signal from the field) have entered the Hebrew
The secret of its success is based on two factors, according to
Danny Dvorin, who has been involved in the program from its earliest days and
today is its editor and main presenter on Saturday nights.
started broadcasts in 1971, it was a sensation, he recalls in a phone interview.
It was the first time all the results of national league games were broadcast
from all the fields as they happened and fans didn’t have to wait until the
Saturday night news round-up to hear the results of the afternoon
“In 1971, that was a major innovation,” says Dvorin. “The second
reason for its ongoing appeal is the element of nostalgia. Every Israeli knows
Indeed, it was common in the 1970s and ’80s to see men walking down
the streets holding transistor radios next to their ears, waiting for that
distinctive signal of a goal.
Dvorin, famed for his encyclopedic
knowledge of the sport, has been behind a microphone during many momentous
broadcasts, but one in particular was not memorable for its results but for the
very fact that it took place at all.
In the early 1980s, the program was
not allowed to broadcast the last four rounds of games so as not to influence
them. Dvorin stresses that there was no fear of foul play – it was felt,
however, that if players knew what was happening elsewhere it could affect their
“For us, it was like broadcasting without being able to produce the
punch line,” he says. “Then, Israel Football Association chairman Haim Haberfeld
declared it was nonsense and insisted we be able to broadcast the final matches.
That was a very emotional moment.”
Dvorin believes Shirim Veshe’arim
kept its fans even after television overtook radio, mainly because TV viewers
can follow only one game whereas the radio program is geared to monitoring all
In its current spot on a Saturday night, it has hundreds of
thousands of listeners, many of them listening in their cars as they travel back
from a day out or a Shabbat away from home.
The Internet has widened its
reach considerably. Among the program’s devoted followers, according to
Dvorin, is a former Israel national team player who now lives in New York and
listens on a regular basis via the Reshet Bet site.
In general, the
broadcasters receive a great deal of positive feedback, as well as comments that
make Dvorin feel old: “People tell my wife, ‘We grew up on your husband.’”
has never lost his enthusiasm for the game and reels off names and dates with
obvious pride. Recalling covering the 1966 World Cup, for instance, he rattles
off the names of the English players like Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Jackie
Charlton and Gordon Banks. That match went down in history for Hurst’s
hat-trick, leading England to a 4-2 victory over West Germany at London’s
’"We don’t have the tradition that Europe has,” Dvorin
admits. He dreams of Israel having modern stadiums like the one in Ghent,
Belgium, which is “a treat. It’s so inviting. That makes all the
The program’s style is a mix of the more restrained British
approach and the emotional Italian style, Dvorin says. “I don’t go nuts. I try
to give the listener what I would want to hear and know.”
whose big break into the Israeli media came when the former teacher from Acre
broadcast Shirim Veshe’arim
from the city in the 1970s, has his own way of
presenting the sport. It is so special that he starred in a skit by Hagashash
“I do have a different style,” he once told me in an interview.
“I describe goals in the South American way: Every goal starts now and finishes
three minutes later. I have to cope with an audience which is looking for
innovations and not prepared to take rubbish, especially now that everyone is
hooked up to the outside world. They’re looking for excitement and greater
professionalism from the broadcaster.”
Dvorin downplays the compliments
he gets, but is understandably proud of the fact that blind listeners tell him
he allows them “to see the game.” One of Dvorin’s quirks is that he refuses to
know ahead of the listeners who has scored a goal.
“The producer tells me
where a goal has been scored and I say: ‘Over to Beersheba or Bloomfield [Tel
Aviv],’ but I don’t want to know which team or player scored. I also want to
hear it from the broadcaster in the field.”
Dvorin is not only famous in
his own right, he is the son a local legend.
Football player and coach
Aryeh (Lonia) Dvorin, who served as the president of the Israel Association of
Football Coaches until his death in 2000, created the first local Beitar
Football Club, in Tel Aviv, in 1934, and in 1940 played a role in the Eretz
Israel National Team’s dramatic 5-1 win over Lebanon in a friendly
“The Palestine Post
[as The Jerusalem Post
was still known] was
the only paper that insisted on calling him ‘Dvorin.’ All the others called him
Lonia,” says the broadcaster, who also has no objections to being on first-name
terms with fans, players and listeners.
A huge number of big names have
been associated with the program, including the late Shosh Atari on the music
side; presenters Bahlul, Meir Einstein and Elihu Ben-On; and commentators Avi
Ratzon, Jojo Abutbul and Hanan Kristal, who often bases his well respected
political commentaries on football analogies.
As with the sport itself,
has its die-hard fans.
“It’s ‘spectaculari,’” says a
Jerusalemite listener, using one of the words that became identified with the
program. “When I was growing up, a Shabbat without football was Yom Kippur. And
you don’t have to like the sport to feel something for Shirim
With praise like that, no wonder it still continues to score
high in the radio ratings charts.