This dispatch, about the ongoing football World Cup, was written several days ago, but for various reasons I couldn’t post it until now.
You can see these and other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.
1. Iranian fans at the World Cup say they love Israel
2. Iranian security forces ban public broadcast of matches, disperse celebratory fans
3. Iran arrests fans for making World Cup music video
4. BBC can’t resist defaming Israel in World Cup coverage
5. “Explaining soccer to Americans”
6. “Iran gets World Cup support from unlikely fans (in Israel)” (Wall Street Journal)
7. “Ramadan poses challenge for Muslim players at World Cup” (France 24)
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
IRANIAN FANS AT THE WORLD CUP SAY THEY LOVE ISRAEL
Iranian fans who have travelled to Brazil, free from the regime censors back home, tell this interviewer from Israel’s Channel 2 that they love Israel:
IRANIAN SECURITY FORCES BAN PUBLIC BROADCAST OF MATCHES, DISPERSE CELEBRATORY FANS
Meanwhile back in Iran, as “Al Jazeera America” notes (link below): “Security authorities took the unprecedented step of banning the broadcast of matches in public cinemas and cafés, effectively barring Iranians from experiencing the matches as collective events.”
However, following Iran’s unexpectedly strong performance against World Cup giants Argentina, large numbers of Iranians took to the streets in celebration, until the authorities dispatched plainclothes security agents on motorbikes to disperse the crowds.
As Al Jazeera reports:
“Iran may have lost to Argentina thanks to a Lionel Messi strike in the dying seconds of their World Cup match on Saturday, but that didn’t stop the Tehran street party that rattled the authorities. Large numbers of Iranians converged on the streets, dancing on overpasses, overrunning major thoroughfares, chanting and blaring music out of cars, in an outpouring of popular celebration that prompted the authorities to send plainclothes security agents on motorbikes through the crowds to disperse them. Riot police had locked down thoroughfares like Tehran’s busy Parkway intersection, but young people flooded into side streets to carry on their festivities, buoyed by the Iranian national soccer team’s strong showing against top-ranked Argentina.”
IRAN ARRESTS FANS FOR MAKING CELEBRATORY WORLD CUP MUSIC VIDEO
Iran’s official IRNA news agency reports that the Iranian regime has arrested three 23-year-olds for appearing in a music video supporting the Iranian team. They are thought to have been taken to one of the “moderate” regime’s notorious detention centers where they may be severely punished for their “crime”.
Agence France Presse reports that it was “produced by the London-based Ajam Band, the clip features contributions from Iranians in more than a dozen countries around the world, including the town of Shahroud, east of the Iranian capital Tehran.”
Here is the “arresting” video of young Iranian men and women singing and dancing in support of their country’s World Cup football team:
Police chief Col. Rahmatollah Taheri called the video “vulgar” and urged youth not to take part in such activities.
Of course, the New York Times and BBC are too busy bashing Israel and trying to persuade people that the Iranian regime is “moderate” to pay much notice to this kind of story, but the Associated Press covered it here.
In May, Iranians were arrested for making a “Happy” video.
Please see: Happy in Gaza (& arrested for being happy in Tehran) (& Disabled Saudi tweet) (May 22, 2014)
BBC CAN’T RESIST DEFAMING ISRAEL IN WORLD CUP COVERAGE
On June 18, the “News From Elsewhere” section of the BBC website reported that football fans in southern Lebanon are watching the World Cup on Israeli TV, because over the border in Israel the matches are shown for free, whereas viewers have to subscribe to Pay TV in Lebanon.
The Lebanese An-Nahar newspaper reports, “Israeli commentators’ voices in Hebrew can be heard everywhere in south Lebanon; in people’s houses, balconies and courtyards because the country has failed to allocate money to enable them to watch the games.”
However, the BBC editor can’t resist including the following in the BBC report:
“The decision to air the matches free-to-air can’t end soon enough for one viewer, who complained to An-Nahar that the Israeli commentators were biased against ‘the Muslims of Bosnia’ during their match against Argentina.”
This slur, the BBC failed to tell us, is a complete lie.
“EXPLAINING SOCCER TO AMERICANS”
This video, made as the World Cup began, is unfair given the fact TV viewing figures for the tournament in the U.S. broke all records after tens of millions of people there have followed the games, and the U.S. team put on a brave performance, narrowly being eliminated yesterday by a very good Belgium team.
Nevertheless it is quite amusing, and spot on about FIFA, the corrupt mafia-like organization that runs the World Cup.
“Why Americans should love soccer,” on “Last Week Tonight” with British-born comedian John Oliver.
I attach two articles below. The first, from the Wall Street Journal, charts the fact that thousands of Israelis have been supporting Iran at the World Cup.
This kind of warm friendship might be contrasted with the situation in Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia were Islamists have bombed and murdered scores of people in the last two weeks to “punish” them for watching the World Cup in public places.
The second article focuses on the difficulties for Muslim players of keeping the Ramadan fast. Ramadan started early this year and overlaps with the World Cup. Several leading players on teams such as France and Germany are Muslim.
Such is the power of football that it was also reported in France -- where many said they were supporting the Algerian team -- that imams gave special permission to Muslims to delay the evening Ramadan call to prayer until after the Germany-Algeria match.
-- Tom Gross
FANS IN TEL AVIV BARS CHEER ON IRAN
Iran Gets World Cup Support From Unlikely Fans (in Israel)
By Joshua Mitnick
Wall Street Journal
TEL AVIV—Down by a goal and on the verge of elimination from World Cup, Iran’s footballers struggled to compose an attack. Thousands of miles away in unlikely corner of the Middle East, a chant of encouragement went up: Ee-ran! Ee-ran! Eran!
The soccer fans weren’t in Tehran but in Tel Aviv, where a group of some two dozen young Israelis at a downtown bar put aside the political divide between the countries to wave Iranian flags and nibble on ‘nogal’ wedding sweets while they cheered on the Iranian side in its must-win match against Bosnia.
“The situation is really terrible. If we advance it will be from the heavens” admitted Eytan Calif, a 31-year copywriter draped in an Iranian flag. “I have my team, Italy, but Iran is part of me, even with everything that is going on right now. It’s hard to be an Iranian fan, especially these days.”
Mr. Calif was referring to the Israeli government’s drumbeat of criticism in recent years against Iran’s nuclear program and the regime’s ties to Islamist militant groups like Hezbollah that have fired rockets on Israeli towns and sought to target Israeli tourists abroad.
But that hasn’t snuffed out the affinity of some 90,000 Iranian Jews who immigrated to Israel and descendants like Mr. Calif to the country and the Iranian people.
“If the players would win, they would stir love, hope and peace, instead of focusing disagreements,” explained David Motai, a partner in a Persian language internet radio station in Israel, Radio Ran, which featured tribute videos to the Iranian soccer team in recent weeks . “The happiness of World Cup would be good for them, and they wouldn’t be dealing with other things like politics.”
Motai, who spoke by phone before the game, said that most Iranian soccer fans in Israel watch games at home rather than coming together in public places. The bar meet up Wednesday for the Bosnia-Herzegovina game was conceived as a media event by peace activists who have sought to foster ties between the two countries with the Israel-Loves-Iran Facebook page.
“The idea is to show solidarity from the Israeli side,” said Ronny Edry, who set up the Facebook page two years ago, and continues to promote communication between the sides over social media. “It’s pretty easy through sports.”
In fact, several days earlier a group of partying Iranian soccer fans in Brazil for the World Cup pre-empted Mr. Edry’s move. When approached by a Israeli television reporter, one fan bellowed “Israel good! Israel good!” and then kissed the reporter while another fan insisted, “Israel and Iran are brothers.”
Some Israelis support the team because they believe the players disagree with the policies of the Iranian government. “The team has a special representative of the government to ensure they don’t defect. I know, I’m involved,” said David Dariush, a 43-year-old Tehran native who said he has special satellite that lets him see the team games.
Chatting in Persian with Mr. Dariush was a boyhood friend from Tehran, Meir Javedanfar, now of Tel Aviv, offered some match analysis: “I think there’s a better chance for a nuclear agreement than of Iran advancing in this tournament,” he said.
Finally, an Iranian goal with eight minutes remaining in regular time triggered celebration in Tel Aviv, but it was quickly ended by a Bosnian retaliatory strike, sealing Iran’s exit from tournament play.
“We would have love for Iran to win the match, said Dan Kashani, who traces back nine generations of family from Iran and organized the meet up with Mr. Edri, “but the main point is to show people in Iran that there are people in the middle of Tel Aviv cheering for them.’’
Ramadan poses challenge for Muslim players at World Cup
France 24 with AFP
June 26, 2014
The World Cup is set to become a whole lot more complicated this weekend for many of the Muslim players still in competition, with Ramadan – a month-long period of fasting – beginning Saturday night.
Dozens of Muslim players on teams such as France, Germany and Algeria will be faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to observe the holy month as the tournament enters the knockout stage.
Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, is meant to be a time of increased spiritual reflection and prayer. Muslims are obligated to give up all food and liquids from dawn until dusk, rising early to eat before the start of the day, and then breaking the fast after sunset. This often means changing the body’s schedule.
Yet for Muslim players competing at the World Cup, the physical demands imposed by the holiday could put them at a disadvantage. Not only do they need food for fuel, but the humidity and heat in Brazil make it all the more important to stay hydrated.
Some players may opt to forgo fasting under a tenet that exempts travelers – as well as those who are sick or pregnant – from observing Ramadan. Mesut Özil, who plays midfield for Germany, has already decided that he will not be observing.
“I am working and I am going to continue doing so. So I’m not going to do Ramadan,” he explained. “It’s impossible for me to do it this year.”
Not everyone, however, shares Özil’s point of view. The majority of Algeria’s players have already planned to fast, despite the dangers it could pose to their health.
The issue can be a tricky one for coaches to navigate, according Claude Leroy, who once managed both Senegal and Ghana at the international level.
“It seems very complicated to strictly respect Ramadan during the World Cup,” said Leroy, who currently coaches Oman’s national team, which did not qualify for this year’s tournament. “What do you do during matches that take place at 1 p.m. or 5 p.m., especially for hydration? It’s impossible and even dangerous”.
France coach Didier Deschamps, however, said he has left it up to his players to make up their own mind.
“It’s a very sensitive and delicate subject. There’s nothing for me to dictate," he said. "We respect everyone’s religion. Today is not the first time we’re discovering this situation. I am not in the least bit worried and everyone will adapt to the situation”.
As Deschamps pointed out, it is far from the first time in recent years that Ramadan has fallen during a major international competition, and, as a precaution, many Muslim athletes have sought medical advice to make sure they are in the best shape possible.
Hakim Chalabi, a former doctor for French club Paris Saint-Germain, has worked with many fasting football players in the past, and has become FIFA’s expert on the matter.
“It’s a time when the risk of injury increases, particularly at the lumbar, joint and muscle level,” he said. These injuries are mostly due to dehydration, rather than lack of food.
“The level of nutrition needs to change. The quality of food must also be modified in order to adapt to the exercise. Players must better hydrated. What’s more, we advise them to take longer naps during the afternoon to recover some of what they’ve lost in sleep,” Chalabi added.
Madjid Bougherra, a veteran player and captain of Algeria’s national team, has followed these guidelines to a T for the past many years. Despite that, he said everything depends on his physical well-being.
“The hardest is staying hydrated. But it’s okay, the weather is good. Some players postpone [Ramadan]. Personally, I’m going to see what my physical state is, but I think I can do it,” Bougherra said.
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Other dispatches in this video series can be seen here: