GAZA CITY (AP) – In a part of the world where people often have little in
common, World Cup fever has created some interesting alliances.
their own players in South Africa, Israelis and Palestinians are embracing
international squads with the sort of unspent passion usually reserved for the
Some are making their choices based on diplomatic
considerations, and some for the love of a good game, but in Israel, the
Bank and Gaza, fans have two clear favorites: Argentina and Brazil.
first football game I watched, Argentina lost that game. I felt
sympathy, so I
always support the loser,” said 19-year-old Hatem Mourad, a Palestinian
in Gaza City, where power outages regularly black out World Cup coverage
minutes at a time, sometimes at crucial junctures.
“Argentina is an
honest team ... and now they win.” Gal Mizrahi, a 19-year-old Israeli
Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Hasharon, favors Argentina’s main rival.
always supported Brazil since I was a little boy, especially because
never made it to the World Cup in my lifetime,” Mizrahi said.
and Palestinians are dedicated soccer fans even between World Cups:
flood the stadiums and proudly wear the colors of the 16 teams in the
league, while Palestinians root for their budding local league and
allegiance to one of two Spanish teams: Barcelona or Real Madrid. In
fights have broken out in the streets over the rivalry between Egyptian
Ahly and Zamalek.
“As Muslims, we don’t drink, we don’t have sex, so
sports is everything for us, girls and boys,” said 33-year-old Reham Om
Palestinian resident of Gaza City.
During the World Cup, Jerusalem bars
with projection screens pull overcapacity crowds of tourists, locals,
staff clad in team jerseys every night.
In the West Bank city of
Ramallah, the flags of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany – and until
Algeria – are the ones most often on display.
“At Brazil, Spain and
Algeria games, there is no place to sit,” said Peter Nasser, who owns a
shop in Ramallah.
Algeria’s brief first-round brush with World Cup glory
was the closest thing to organic national pride here, as Palestinians
together to support – and ultimately mourn the demise of – the one Arab
“It isn’t anyone’s first team. But they are Arabs,” said
21-year-old Ramallah resident Samer Tamimi, dressed in a suit, who
supports Germany but left work early to catch Algeria’s final game
Sometimes politically charged fandom is as much about who
to cheer against as who to support. Many Israeli football fans said they
couldn’t help but cheer against Algeria, even as underdogs.
really mind who does well, but I really hope Algeria doesn’t as they are
anti-Israel,” 21- year-old Yisrael Tabouri said.
Among Palestinians, the
United States and England – both of which have moved on to the round of
have inspired the most haters.
“The British gave the Jews permission to
come here in 1948,” said 19-year-old Hammad Yishawi, a resident of Gaza
“The US? They support the Jews.”
But in a climate where it’s
impossible to dissociate almost anything from politics, many said what’s
important was having a good sense of humor – and remembering that it’s
“I cheer any country, regardless of politics,” 30-year-old
Palestinian lawyer Mohamad Salam said.
“Extremism in football is totally
different than political extremism, or anything else.”
Dalia Nammari in
Ramallah and Jeremy Last in Jerusalem contributed to this report.