Soccer Politics: Root for the Dutch

Since Denmark and the US are out, Israelis can still cheer on Holland.

World Cup 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
World Cup 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
When the World Cup began on June 11, The Jerusalem Post ran a semi-satirical story on its front page about why for reasons that have to do more with politics than sports, the only teams any self-respecting Israeli could support were Holland, Denmark, and the United States.
That was when there were still 32 teams in the tournament. It was pretty pathetic then that Israelis could barely support 10 percent of the teams.
But now that there are only four left and Holland is still one of them, the field looks much better for Israelis, who now can support 25 percent of the teams – just Holland.
The Dutch have not succeeded since then in building a new coalition government, perhaps because they are too busy watching the World Cup.
But whatever coalition is formed is expected to be among the most pro-Israel in Europe.
The unexpected Dutch defeat of Brazil on Friday excited many Israelis who were upset with Brazil joining Turkey in voting against United Nations sanctions on Iran.
The amount of Israelis wearing orange to synagogue on Friday night appeared to be the highest since the disengagement from Gaza.
A Dahaf Institute poll published in Monday’s Yediot Aharonot found that 31.1 percent of Israelis would be rooting for Holland, a surprising 30.5 percent for Germany, 23 percent for Spain, just 8.1 percent for Uruguay, and 7.3 percent for none of the four.
The poll indicates that for Israeli soccer fans, the Holocaust is long gone. The current German government has very good relations with Israel, despite its continuing trade with Iran and German chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls for an international inquiry into Israel’s response to the Gaza flotilla.
Israel Radio analyst Hanan Crystal, who is an expert on both politics and soccer, said the reason so many Israelis supported Germany was simply that the Germans are now the favorites to win the cup and Israelis like to get behind a winner.
That’s an interesting contrast with the rest of the world, which tends to root for perceived underdogs, especially when it comes to the Middle East conflict.
The Dahaf poll found that the percentage of Israeli men who claim now that they supported Germany from the beginning of the World Cup was much higher than the percentage of men and women together, an apparent indication that many Israeli men lie.
The relatively small percentage of Israelis who support Spain, even though it has a good chance of winning the cup, could be because there have been a series of anti- Semitic and anti-Israel incidents lately.
Five Israelis were attacked in Madrid last month and Israeli gays were told not to come to the city’s gay pride parade. Last week, the the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that a chain of Spanish toy stores decided to remove the popular Israeli game Rummikub from its shelves and replace it with a Chinese imitation.
But why do so few Israelis support Uruguay? Is it because they can’t find it on a map? Is it because they voted for a probe into the flotilla incident at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva last month? Or is it because the Uruguayan team defeated the only Israeli team to ever make the World Cup 40 years ago? Perhaps the best answer is that if Holland was not among the remaining four, the Israelis who do decide what team to root for based on politics might have decided that Uruguay was the least of the evils.
But since Holland is still there – at least for another day – when it comes to soccer, Israelis will be going Dutch.