* Arab League receives official apology, after Ghana’s World Cup soccer player waves Israeli flag in an on-field celebration of his team’s goals in what he calls “an act of solidarity with the Israeli people”
* Ghana player is “obviously a Mossad agent,” say Egyptian journalists
* UK Jihadists attack “religion of soccer,” warn Muslims against taking part in this “colonial crusader scheme”
Pantsil unveils the Israeli flag after scoring for Ghana
(This dispatch concerns the ongoing soccer World Cup, the world’s biggest sporting and television event, currently taking place in Germany.)
1. “Soccer is against Islam”
2. “The best public relations since Entebbe”
3. “Many Israelis have now become supporters of Ghana”
4. Ghana player is “obviously a Mossad agent”
5. Do cry for me Argentina
6. Protests at Iranian World Cup games
7. Thoroughly unIslamic Iranian women
8. World cup audiences soar, and Germany flies the flag again
9. “Jihadist site: Soccer is against Islam” (Yediot Ahronot, June 21, 2006)
10. “From Ghana with love” (Jerusalem Post, June 18, 2006)
11. “Apology follows Pantsil gesture” (BBC News, June 19, 2006)
12. “Fury in Egypt over Ghana’s Israeli flag waver” (AFP, June 19, 2006)
13. “1,000 protest before Iran World Cup match" (AP, June 17, 2006)
14. “Iran’s women defy Islamic ban to cheer on their team” (Times, UK, June 19, 2006)
“SOCCER IS AGAINST ISLAM”
A Jihadi website, called The Saved Sect, has attacked the “religion of soccer” and warned Muslims against taking part in this “colonial crusader scheme.”
The website, one of a number which call on Muslims to establish an Islamic state in Britain, also attacked the current “football fever” sweeping the world since the start of the World Cup two weeks ago.
The website claims that soccer plants the seeds of nationalism to divide Muslims and causes them to stray from the vision of a unified Islamic identity, and instead waste their time following this “false religion.” For more, see the first article below. It should be noted that several Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are competing in the World Cup finals.
“THE BEST PUBLIC RELATIONS SINCE ENTEBBE”
Whilst Israel did not qualify for the soccer World Cup, John Pantsil (also spelt Pentsil and Paintsil), a defender for the Ghanaian national team, became a hero to Israeli soccer fans last weekend after he repeatedly waved the Israeli flag on the pitch in front of a television audience of hundreds of millions. TV broadcasters in Iran, Syria and Gaza did not have time to remove the images, as broadcasts of the match were carried live.
Pantsil, who plays professionally for Hapoel Tel Aviv, pulled an Israeli flag from his sock and waved it above his head straight at the television camera following both Ghana goals and also at the end of the game against the Czech Republic.
One Israeli media expert said “this was Israel’s biggest PR coup in front of a global audience since Entebbe in 1976. Black Africans voluntarily shared their love of and appreciation for Israel in front of all those Arabs and Europeans constantly fed the Israeli apartheid lie.”
The Ghana “Black Stars” 2-0 win was one of the biggest shocks in the tournament so far, as the Czechs are ranked second in the world, and had already defeated the Americans 3-0. Whilst FIFA, soccer’s governing body, say they would not object to the gesture*, following pressure on Ghana from various Arab governments, the Ghanaian Football Association this week apologized to “anybody who was offended” and promised that “it will never happen again.”
Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League said the League had received an official apology from the Ghanaian government expressing regret at the incident. The memo said Pantsil’s action had no official support and Ghana hoped the incident would not affect relations with friendly countries.
Lots of people in Ghana, however, said they welcomed Pantsil’s move. Pro-Israeli sympathies are still quite common in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, Sheila Raviv, a subscriber to this list, notes that at the dinner for the Governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem last week, doctors and health-care specialists from African countries, and from the Palestinian Authority, were guests of honor. The Hebrew University allows them to study without any university fees, and gives them the tools to return to their homes and cope with their specific medical problems. Dr Eugene, from Cameroon, gave the keynote speech in which he expressed his deep gratitude to Israel for extending this helping hand.
(* FIFA said that while Pantsil violated no rules, it hopes the scene would not be repeated when Ghana play the U.S. today. Since the article Football killing fields was published in April, FIFA have been very careful not to directly criticize Israel.)
“MANY ISRAELIS HAVE NOW BECOME SUPPORTERS OF GHANA”
Following the game, the Israeli Sports Minister Ofir Pines-Paz praised Pantsil for his actions and proclaimed that “We have an Israeli at the World Cup. Pantsil’s gesture has warmed our hearts and many Israelis have now become supporters of Ghana.”
Pantsil himself said “The people in Israel have been very nice to me. I wanted to make them happy.”
Many among Tel Aviv’s Ghanaian community live in a working class district close to the city’s central bus station, an area that has repeatedly been the target of deadly Palestinian suicide bomb attacks. Many black Africans, in contrast to white intellectuals in Europe and North America who spout nonsense about “Israeli Apartheid,” say they love Israel and its people. Two other players of the Ghana national soccer squad play for Israeli clubs (goalkeeper Sammy Adjei plays for Ashdod, and defender Emmanuel Pappoe for Hapoel Kfar Saba).
GHANA PLAYER IS “OBVIOUSLY A MOSSAD AGENT”
The live commentator on the Arab satellite channel broadcasting all World Cup matches in the region abruptly cut short his trademark “goooaaaaaaal” when Pantsil brought out the Israeli flag. The commentator then asked “What are you doing, man?”
Some Egyptian newspapers subsequently described Pantsil as a “Mossad agent,” whilst others claimed “an Israeli had paid him to do it.”
A sports analyst for Al-Ahram (whose content is controlled by the Egyptian Ministry of Information) claimed that “The real reason (for the flag-waving),” is because many Ghanaian players go through soccer training camps set up by an Israeli coach.
The lies of Egyptian journalists are becoming more imaginative all the time. According to Hassan el-Mestekawi, “The training program for these children starts every morning with a salute to the Israeli flag.”
The Arab media has paid a lot of attention to the waving of an Israeli flag at the World Cup, al-Arabiya featured the news as the first item on its home page.
For a photo, see: www.alarabiya.net/Articles/2006/06/17/24815.htm.
In the past, the World Cup has been used for anti-Israeli gestures. For example, Italy dedicated their 1982 Word Cup victory to the PLO, according to an editorial in the International Herald Tribune last week.
DO CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA
Whilst many Israelis say they will now support Ghana, since the start of the tournament the Israeli newspaper and TV coverage has been dominated by support for Argentina as both the head coach (Jose Pekerman) and team captain (Juan Pablo Sorin) are Jewish, and say they are glad to be so.
Adrian Stoppleman, an Argentine Jewish sportswriter, told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that “in the past, Argentina has had a sprinkling of Jewish players in its local league. But to have two such key people like the coach and team captain being Jewish is truly an achievement to be proud of.”
Pekerman, 56, has lived much of his life in the Jewish neighborhood of Villa Crespo in Buenos Aires. Under his guidance, the Argentine under-23 teams won three world championships. In 2004, he was promoted to coach the national team.
Sorin, 30, a defender-midfielder for the Spanish club, Villareal, has a “dynamic blend of spirit, leadership and intelligence that made him an obvious choice as team captain,” according to Argentine news reports.
Argentina has played very well so far (for example, beating Serbia & Montenegro 6-0), and many soccer experts think they may win the tournament, which concludes in Berlin on July 9.
PROTESTS AT IRANIAN WORLD CUP GAMES
Over 1,000 people demonstrated peacefully last Saturday before Iran’s second game at the World Cup in the German city of Frankfurt, in protest against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s comments to “wipe Israel off the map,” and his repeated assertions that the Holocaust was a myth.
Demonstrators waved Israeli flags and held up signs saying “Support Israel!” and “Israel has the right to exist.” Included in the demonstration were a small group of Iranian dissidents with their country’s flags. The Iranian dissidents applauded respectfully as Holocaust survivor and scholar Arno Lustiger told the rally that any welcome for Ahmadinejad would “be a provocation to all German Jews.”
Iran’s participation in the World Cup is now over, following defeats against Portugal and Mexico and a draw yesterday with Angola.
About 250 people demonstrated against Ahmadinejad in Leipzig just hours before the start of the Iran-Angola match.
The rally in the downtown area, far from the city stadium, was organized by Jewish and anti-Nazi groups, and was attended by the mayor of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung. During the rally he said Iran’s soccer fans were welcome in the city, but anti-Semitic speeches by its president were not.
THOROUGHLY UNISLAMIC IRANIAN WOMEN
For all three of Iran’s games at the World Cup thousands of women, who would be banned from attending games in their homeland, have turned out to watch their national team. See the article in the dispatch of May 19 titled Israel to have its own baseball league (& Iran bars women from soccer matches).
As the Times (of London) article (below) notes, some of the women “wore headscarves and long, modest dresses in keeping with the dictates of religious tradition in the Islamic republic but many more, mainly the daughters of the middle-class diaspora scattered across Europe, painted their faces red, white and green, dyed their hair and draped themselves in the national flag.”
The Iranian women supporters attending the World Cup matches were rejecting the laws of the ruling Iranian regime which believes it is unIslamic for women to see the bare legs of men who are not their husbands. Women are routinely detained at the Azadi stadium in Teheran if they try to gain admission to a soccer match.
WORLD CUP AUDIENCES SOAR, AND GERMANY FLIES THE FLAG AGAIN
Global television audiences for the 2006 World Cup have surged, with audiences up nearly 30% for the opening matches compared with 2002. The study by media analyst Initiative found that the tournament was very popular in countries that did not have a team playing. Brazil is the most popular team among viewers.
The tournament has also seen the biggest outpouring of national pride in Germany since the Third Reich. After 60 years of inhibition and embarrassment, the national colors of black, red and gold are fluttering all over the country, from windowsills and cars, shrouding shops, town halls and high-speed trains.
The newspaper Die Welt declared in an editorial: “One and a half centuries after 1848, we have learned to value and show the colors of our flag as a sign of our democratic nation… Neither the 1972 Munich Olympics – stained by the murder of Israeli athletes – nor the 1974 World Cup was like this. Nor, even was the moment the Berlin Wall crumbled.”
“Deutschland! Deutschland!” a chant that in the 1930s made the world tremble, was last week roared by hundreds of thousands of German soccer fans around the Brandenburg Gate. The novelist Thomas Bruessig says that there has not been such naked spontaneous German patriotism since the start of the First World War in August 1914.
According to the Times of London, “Young women are buying black-red-gold underwear so that every time a goal is scored they can raise their skirts and flash the flag.”
I attach six articles below
-- Tom Gross
FROM GHANA WITH LOVE
From Ghana with love
By Sharon Solomon
The Jerusalem Post
June 18, 2006
The Israeli national soccer team failed to qualify the World Cup Finals, so the local fans were stunned when the Israeli flag made a surprise appearance on a field in Germany Saturday.
John Pantsil, a Ghana defender who plays professionally for Hapoel Tel Aviv, pulled a blue-and-white flag out from his sock following both of his team’s goals against the Czech Republic as the “Black Stars” pulled off the tournament’s most significant upset so far.
The frequently criticized and underrated side from West Africa played a tactically sound game, including an effective defensive effort against Juventus left winger Pavel Nedved. Pantsil was a major contributor in shutting Nedved down.
Ghana shocked the Czech Republic – which defeated the United States 3-0 last Monday – with brilliant strikes by Gyan Asamoah and Sulley Muntari, after which Pantsil showed his loyalty to his club’s home.
Sources at Hapoel Tel Aviv disclosed later that the Ghanaian international had promised to perform the act if his team scored in the World Cup.
“WE PROMISE THAT IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN”
Apology follows Pantsil gesture
June 19, 2006
The Ghanaian Football Association has apologised after defender John Pantsil waved an Israeli flag to celebrate the World Cup win over the Czech Republic.
Spokesman Randy Abbey said the Ghanaian FA was not taking sides in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Pantsil plays in Israel for Hapoel Tel Aviv wanted to thank Israeli fans who travelled to support him, Abbey said
“He’s unaware of international politics. We apologise to anybody who was offended,” said Abbey. “We promise that it will never happen again.
“He did not act out of malice for the Arab people or in support of Israel. He was naive... we don’t need to punish him.”
Pantsil celebrated the two Ghana goals on Saturday by taking out a small Israeli flag from his sock and waving it above his head.
Abbey said neither the Ghanaian FA nor Ghana as a country had a strong political position on the subject and said they were just in Germany for the World Cup.
“We are not in support or against Israel or the Arab nations. We are here to do football, we are not here to do politics.”
A spokesman for Fifa had said they had no problem with the gesture.
Israel’s Sports Minister Ofir Pines-Paz had been quoted as praising Paintsil for his actions and saying Ghana had gained many Israeli fans.
“We have an Israeli at the World Cup. Paintsil’s gesture has warmed our hearts and many Israelis have now become supporters of Ghana,” Paz said.
“AN ISRAELI HAD PAID HIM TO DO IT”
Fury in Egypt over Ghana’s Israeli flag waver
By Jailan Zayan
Agence France Presse (AFP)
June 19, 2006
Ghana defender John Paintsil’s waving of an Israeli flag to celebrate his team’s World Cup goals drew a barrage of insults and furious reactions in Egyptian newspapers.
Paintsil, who plays for Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv, celebrated the two goals in Ghana’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic by pulling an Israeli flag out of his sock and waving it at the cameras.
“The ignorant and stupid Paintsil, who spent 20 days in Egypt during the last African Nations Cup, plays for Hapoel,” sports commentator Alaa Sadek wrote in the daily Al-Akhbar, explaining to baffled Egyptian audiences Painstil’s link to Israel.
“Egyptians supported the Ghanaian team all the way until the 82nd minute, and regretted it after the Israeli flag (waving),” screamed a bold red headline in the independent daily Al-Masry al-Yom Monday.
“As soon as the referee blew his whistle to start the match, Egyptians were out enthusiastically, almost hysterically supporting Ghana, until defender John Paintsil took out the Israeli flag,” read the paper’s front page article.
The live commentator on the Arab satellite channel broadcasting all World Cup matches in the region abruptly cut short his trademark “goooaaaaaaal” when Paintsil brought out the flag.
“What are you doing, man?” the bewildered commentator said.
The main question on Egyptian lips after the match was “why?”
Some papers described Paintsil as a “Mossad agent”, others said “an Israeli had paid him to do it” but the most elaborate theory was offered by the top-selling state-owned daily Al-Ahram.
“The real reason,” sports analyst Hassan el-Mestekawi wrote, stems from the fact that many Ghanaian players go through football training camps set up by an Israeli coach who “discovered the treasure of African talent, and abused the poverty of the continent’s children” with the ultimate goal of selling them off to European clubs.
“The training program for these children starts every morning with a salute to the Israeli flag,” Mestekawi claimed.
FIFA said they had taken note of the flag-waving and that although there was nothing in the rules to prevent it, they hoped not to see a repetition.
Egyptian football fans who were out supporting Ghana on Saturday’s match were equally rattled when the player took out the Israeli flag and dubbed him “the Israghani” (Israeli-Ghanaian).
“We were totally supporting Ghana and we were so excited by how well they were doing,” Ashraf al-Berri, who watched the match with a dozen friends told AFP.
“We were screaming with joy, but the whole room went quiet when Paintsil took out the flag. We didn’t really know how to react,” he said.
“As an Egyptian I am very sensitive when it comes to Israel,” Osama Mohy, who watched the match at a friend’s house, told AFP.
“If Mido scores, would he wave the England flag? And if he did everyone would hate him for it,” he said refering to Egyptian striker Mido (Ahmed Hossam) who plays for England’s Tottenham Hotspur.
African champions Egypt failed to qualify for the World Cup finals.
PROTEST BEFORE IRAN WORLD CUP MATCH AGAINST AHMADINEJAD
1,000 protest before Iran World Cup match
By Matt Moore
The Associated Press
June 17, 2006
More than 1,000 people gathered peacefully Saturday to protest the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust as Iran played its second match at the World Cup.
Demonstrators waved Israeli flags at the rally outside the Alt Oper opera house in Germany’s financial capital. Some held up signs reading “Support Israel Now!” and “Israel has the right to exist.”
They were joined by a small group of Iranian dissidents with their country’s flags, though police said there was no trouble.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has caused international outrage by dismissing the Holocaust as a myth and questioning Israel’s right to exist.
Germany’s interior minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, has said that his country would have to accept a visit by Ahmadinejad if he decided to come during the World Cup.
Holocaust survivor and scholar Arno Lustiger told the rally that any welcome for Ahmadinejad would “be a provocation to all German Jews.”
Ahmadinejad has not announced any firm plans to attend. However, Germany’s Central Council of Jews has said the presence at the tournament of one of Ahmadinejad’s seven vice presidents, Mohammed Aliabadi, already is a provocation.
An estimated 1,200 people, many of them German Jews, demonstrated against Ahmadinejad before Iran’s loss to Mexico in its opening World Cup game in Nuremberg last Sunday. Portugal beat Iran 2-0 on Saturday.
The prospect of a possible Ahmadinejad visit has been a delicate issue for the German government, which is involved in diplomatic efforts to defuse a standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Schaeuble has refused to meet his Iranian counterpart, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, during the World Cup.
His ministry said the Iranian embassy in Berlin had asked whether Schaeuble would meet Pourmohammadi during a visit to an unspecified Iran World Cup game. Despite reservations, a ministry statement said, a meeting would have provided a chance to condemn Ahmadinejad’s statements and to press the case for early release of a German tourist held in Iran after his boat allegedly strayed into Iranian waters.
However, it said an Iranian official’s recent statement that the man would not be released early removed a “significant basis of business” for any meeting.
German Jewish leaders have worried about possible shows of support for Ahmadinejad by Germany’s far right.
Police rejected an application from the far-right National Democratic Party to stage a rally in Frankfurt Saturday, and the party did not appeal the ban.
“I LOVE FOOTBALL. OF COURSE WOMEN SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO WATCH”
Iran’s women defy Islamic ban to cheer on their team
By Sean O’Neill
The Times (of London)
June 19, 2006
This was probably as close as the World Cup will come to a political demonstration – not so much a mass protest as a defiant gesture. Thousands of Iranian women, barred from attending football matches by the religious leadership in their homeland, turned out in Frankfurt to watch their team play Portugal on Saturday.
Some wore headscarves and long, modest dresses in keeping with the dictates of religious tradition in the Islamic republic but many more, mainly the daughters of the middle-class diaspora scattered across Europe, painted their faces red, white and green, dyed their hair and draped themselves in the national flag.
They hailed from all generations: women in their twenties in “Iran Girl” T-shirts, young mothers with their toddlers and older matriarchs with their teenaged daughters – all passionate and excited about attending a World Cup match.
Simply by being in the stadium they were rejecting the view of the ayatollahs that it is unIslamic for women to see the bare legs of men who are not their husbands. They screamed and pleaded for their team but, apart from one banner which read “Heroes of our nation, make us proud again”, there was no overt political statement.
Darya, 21, her hair covered with a blue scarf and eyes hidden behind stylish sunglasses, said: “I don’t really have an opinion about politics but I like football, I love football. Of course women should be allowed to watch it.”
Maryam, Mahssa and Elham had travelled from Gothenburg and had succinct views on the ban on female spectators. “It’s so much bullshit,” Maryam, who, like many of the young women going to the game, has never lived in Iran, said. “We were born and raised in Sweden because that’s where our parents settled after the revolution. But our hearts are in Iran, we love our country and we love our team.”
Women are routinely detained at the Azadi stadium in Tehran if they try to gain admission to a football match.
Offside, Jafar Panahi’s film about a group of women arrested after dressing as men in an attempt to see Iran play Bahrain in a World Cup qualifier last year, is on release at present in Britain.
On the pitch, Iran’s men were outclassed by the Portuguese and fell to a brilliant goal by Deco and an expert penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo. But in the stands the Iranian women struck a noisy blow for equality.