Sports | Zooming In

June 19, 2006

The Ghana-Israel Connection

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this World Cup edition: An inappropriate booty call; a controversial Israeli flag; and a Brazilian soccer diaspora.

David Goldenberg

Zooming In
Paul Antonson
Some of the most insightful writing from outside the US comes from local media. In this occasional feature, Gelf identifies noteworthy stories that haven't gotten much attention outside local borders. For this week's edition, Gelf is sticking with the World Cup.


Ghana defender John Paintsil's strong play against the Czech Republic won fans here in the States by helping to ensure that the US squad, in the same bracket, would live to see another game. He also won some fans back in his home in Israel by removing an Israeli flag from his sock and waving it around several times both during and after the game. Paintsil, a Ghanaian-born defender who plays for the club Hapoel Tel Aviv, was simply paying tribute to his Israeli fans who had traveled to watch him, Ghana team spokesman Randy Abbey told Reuters. "He is obviously unaware of the implications of what he did. He's unaware of international politics. We apologise to anybody who was offended and we promise that it will never happen again."

While an article in the Jerusalem Post says that Pantsil's flag-waving is indicative of how much foreign players in all sports love living in Israel, Assaf Geffen of Ha'aretz tells his fellow Israelis not to take too much pleasure in the scene. "Because if we insist on giving an Israeli connection and meaning to Paintsil's celebrations," he writes, "one could think of some more realistic alternatives. For example Paintsil's fellow countrymen, and other Africans, may not have lifted the Israeli flag but have been working here for years, and are subjected to inhuman treatment from us. Paintsil's partner was no exception—she was deported before being allowed back after someone at Maccabi Tel Aviv made a phone call. Paintsil and other African players receive VIP treatment from Israeli fans, including monkey calls and thrown bananas."

In the Morocco Times, Fahd Chafik rounds up opinion of the gesture in Northern Africa, stating, "This gesture—for the populations of the region, along with Middle-Easterners and Muslims around the globe—is just like showing a swastika or any Nazi sign in Europe or in Israel."

(Gelf note: While Paintsil's jersey clearly states his surname as P-A-I-N-T-S-I-L (BBC), it should be noted that the majority of mentions he gets in the press are as John Pantsil. We'll let you know if it's anything more than a spelling error.)


Add this to the myriad of insults and accusations being hurled back and forth among the players, coaches, and soccer officials of this finger-shaped African nation (as ESPN broadcasters would refer to Togo). Assogbavi Komlanm, the secretary-general of Togo's football federation, claimed that coach Otto Pfister (aka Dick Cheney) got drunk after the opening loss to South Korea. "I might take legal action. The moment he makes those comments, what can I do?" Pfister was quoted as saying in This Day, a Nigerian newspaper. "I am one of the people who doesn't drink alcohol," he added. "But after the World Cup I will also contact FIFA to see what we can do, just so we don't make any mistakes."


Coming in as a substitute in the 84th minute of France's opening game against Switzerland, midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo became the first player of Indian descent to ever play in the World Cup. Dhorasoo's parents met in Mauritius, where both worked on sugar plantations, and eventually moved to France. The Indian Express explains that his success has "dispelled the notion that Indians are genetically not predisposed to football at the top levels."

The paper also caught up with Dhorasoo's uncle to discuss Dhorasoo's origins. "So what is Vikash: French, Mauritian or Indian? 'Vikash was born in France,' Sama (the uncle) begins. 'He's married a French girl,' he says after a pause. 'It's like his mother (Nalinee) who hails from an Indian family... all of us speak and understand Telugu, but were born in Mauritius.' In football’s flat world, perhaps it really doesn’t matter."


Shortly before the World Cup started, photographer Emelie Asplund was sent by Dagens Nyheter newspaper to cover a warm-up match between Denmark and Paraguay—the latter Sweden's group foe. At one in the morning, she received a phone call from Manual Hoffman, World Cup organizer FIFA's liaison for the Paraguay team. "He said that a player of the team wanted to meet me right then in the middle of the night to get to know me better," she tells Dagens Nyheter. Aspuld declined. Though Hoffman apologized to Asplund the next day for making her uncomfortable, he said he saw nothing wrong with placing the call. "I can't see anything wrong in making phone calls," he said. "It's part of my job to help players with translations. When a player needs help translating something, that might require me to make phone calls."


Francileudo dos Santos has yet to see a minute of playing time for the Carthage Eagles, as their star striker hurt his shin in a pre-Cup friendly. But according to the Brazil-Arab News Agency (ANBA), his very presence on the team has turned his home city in Brazil of Zé Doca into a Tunisian fan base. Dos Santos's mother tells ANBA that when her son naturalized himself as a Tunisian in 2003, "I found it strange. But then he came here and explained it all to the family. He said that he is greatly loved there and has the support of all. And what is best for our son is also best for us." According to Reuters, Tunisian coach Roger Lemerre told a Brazilian journalist: "Now you Brazilians, you should know this. He is Brazilian no more. He is Tunisian at heart and you can't have him back."

Of course, with its depth, the Brazilian team would probably not have had room for dos Santos in the first place. An article in the DPA newswire details the moves of several native Brazilians to other nations' sides, including Alessandro Santos, a fullback for Japan; Deco, a midfielder for Portugal; and Zinha, a Mexican striker.

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- Zooming In
- posted on Nov 29, 09
Ravi Goojha

Whoever told you that Indians are not good at soccer? Come see me and my two sons play in New York. The only problem is that I tell my sons to go for academics rather than sports for there is more money in Wall Street than in soccer stadiums! I will opt for Wall street anytime. WHY SHOULD INDIANS LEAVE THE MONEY BUSINESS TO ASKENAZI JEWS ONLY?

Article by David Goldenberg

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