Why has Israel not participated in World Cup soccer matches for decades?
Nazareth – “Al-Quds Al-Arabi”: A report published by the Palestine Center for Israeli Studies (MADAR) stops at the question: “Why is Israel not entering the World Cup football matches?” And views the football profile historically. The report states that in 1970, Israel reached the FIFA World Cup in Mexico for the first time, and this was the last time. This year, at the World Cup in Qatar, most of the Arab and non-Arab masses contributed to the raising of the Palestinian flag, criticizing Israel and its colonial policies, and in many cases boycotting its media delegation. “Madar” says that this report aims to give an overview of the Israeli football world, who the main clubs are, who the Israeli national team is and how it is treated internationally (both officially and popularly). The report leaves the question open; Why is Israel failing to qualify for the World Cup and are there any prospects for the World Cup in the future? It is a mathematical and a political question at the same time.
Zionist football before the establishment of the state
First of all, the report indicates that Zionist football began during the British colonial period and was institutionalized by the Zionist leadership during the period of Jewish settlement. The first Premier League for Zionist football was founded in 1928. The Zionist Premier League participated for the first time in the Palestine Championship for the year 1932/1933, which was supervised by the British Mandate government. For several years leading up to this tournament, FIFA insisted that the Palestine Premier League should include Zionist-Hebrew teams, English teams and Arab teams. And after all Arab teams refused to participate in such a league (of course, the exacerbation of the Zionist-Arab conflict at that time played a role in this refusal), “FIFA” also agreed to organize the first championship in 1932/1933, which included only one English team (British police team). ), along with eight Zionist teams, namely Hapoel Tel Aviv (founded in 1923), Hapoel Haifa (1924), Maccabi Hashmonai Yerushalayim (1911), Maccabi Tel. Aviv (1906), Maccabi Petah Tikva (1912), Maccabi Haifa (1913), Maccabi Nes Ziona (1912) and Hapoel Jerusalem (1926).
The report confirms that it is important to study and analyze the world of football during the mandate period (which this report will not do in its current form), for several reasons:
1-There was a political conflict between Palestinian-Arab football and Zionist-Hebrew football, a conflict that has not been studied enough. Looking at the founding date of the Zionist clubs should not mean that the developed cultural and sports life in Palestine was started only by the Zionist society.
In Issam Al-Khalidi’s article, the writer points out that Palestinian-Arab football developed in Palestine earlier than that, such as Bishop Al-Maqdisi School Club (founded in 1899), Al-Freer Al-Maqdisi School Club (1892), and the Friends School Club for Boys in Ramallah (1901) and other clubs. However, political differences related to the nature of the conflict during the British colonial period forced Arab clubs to refrain from participating in tournaments involving Zionist teams. In 1934, a year after the establishment of the Premier League, the Palestinian teams withdrew and formed the Palestine Arab Sports Federation, which witnessed regression and progress in line with political events, particularly during the 1936 revolution.
2- Another reason is that there is confusion among many regarding the so-called “Palestinian national team” during the British colonial period, which participated in many international matches, including matches with the Egyptian national team, the Lebanese national team and the Australian national team. The “Madar” report warns that this team, which was formed by the British mandate government, had the majority of players from Zionist clubs.
An overview of Israeli football in 2022
Be that as it may, Israeli football has gone through many developments, especially after the Nakba, and after the establishment of Israel. Today, football in it is divided into different clubs spread in all Israeli cities and towns, and can be divided into five federations:
Beitar Sports Federation: It was founded in 1924 and currently includes dozens of clubs distributed in Israeli cities and towns, the most important of which are the Beitar Jerusalem club, the Beitar Tel Aviv – Bat Yam club, the Beitar Kfar Saba club, the Beitar Haifa club, the Beitar Netanya club, Club Beitar Ashdod and Club Beitar Petar Nordea Jerusalem and others. The Beitar Union originated from the Beitar movement, an acronym meaning Union of Hebrew Youth, after Joseph Trumpeldor (1880-1920), a right-wing revisionist considered a Zionist hero who was killed on the Palestine-Lebanon border by Palestinian resistance fighters. The club expresses right-wing currents or masses, which found political expression in the right-wing movement Herut, and then in the Likud party. The Beitar clubs differ from each other in the intensity of extremism and right-wing, and the Beitar Jerusalem club can be considered one of the most extreme, extremist and racist, since most of its base is made up of eastern right-wing Zionists, and it has a violent and anti-Arab fan group called “Lafamilia”. .
Hapoel Union, or Hapoel for Physical Activities: It is a general union founded by Zionist leaders who express the Western (Ashkenite) founding movement of Israel. The association was founded in 1927, and in addition to football, it also includes many sports, and the most important clubs currently active in football are Hapoel Tel Aviv Club and Hapoel Haifa Club.
Maccabi Union: Its first club was founded in Istanbul in 1895, before Max Nordau (one of the most important leaders and founders of the Zionist movement) gave a speech at the Second Zionist Congress (1898) in which he called for the revival of the so-called “muscular Hebrew” , whom he aspired to create Zionist, strong, athletic and influential, so that he could defeat his Zionist ambitions. The Maccabi Federation has many clubs in Israel and the world, and the most important Israeli clubs are Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Jerusalem and others.
Imagine: it’s a union founded in 1939 to represent religious Zionists, specifically followers of the Hapoel HaMizrahi movement. And when Hagana/Hapoel leaders refused to allow religious Jews to organize into teams or clubs closed to religious only, the religious formed the Alissour Union to recruit religious fighters. After the establishment of Israel, Eliasour’s activities focused more on the field of sports, and currently the association has two main clubs: Eliasour Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Eliasour Yehud.
ASA or Academic Sports Association: It was founded in the Arab League in Jerusalem in 1952 to establish sports teams of academics.
“Madar” says that this division of Israeli sports and football associations should be completed by making two observations:
First, there are three federations (Hapoel, Maccabi and Beitar) that are very popular among the Israeli public, and each federation includes many clubs that have fans, supporters, participate in the Premier League, and sometimes buy international or local players.
This report cannot look in detail at every Israeli club, which has business shareholders, establishes fraternal relations with other international clubs and has its own football profile.
Second, there are Arab clubs from Palestine who play in the Premier League today. Some of these clubs are included in the above-mentioned federations, such as Hapoel Umm al-Fahm or Maccabi Abna al-Rina, and some of these clubs are independent and do not belong to any federation, such as the Bnei Sakhnin club (founded in 1999). , and it is the first Arab club to reach the Premier League and previously won the “State Cup”.
Israel and the World Cup
Why does the national team of Israel (which is geographically located on the continent of Asia) play in the European qualifiers?
To that question, the report answers that after the establishment of Israel in 1948, FIFA classified Israel in the European Football Association, and it participated in all European championships, but had very little chance against professional European football players. In the late 1950s, Israel pressured the International Football Federation (FIFA) to reclassify itself within the Asian continent, only to actually join it in the 1960s, as it found opportunities to achieve success against the then weak Asian and Arab teams. . In 1960, Israel finished second in the Asian Championship, then won the 1964 Asian Championship and qualified for the 1968 and 1976 Olympics. In 1970, Israel participated in the World Cup where it was placed in the second group with Italy, Uruguay and Sweden, and the latter reached the group with two draws and a defeat. However, all these achievements began to collapse due to the widespread Arab boycott movement at the time, to the extent that it was “FIFA” that began to pressure Israel to leave the Asian continent due to the irregularity of many matches, and the boycott of Israel by many Arab and non-Arab Asian countries. Even in international matches outside the AFC, Israel suffered Arab boycotts, the most important of which was the Moroccan boycott of Israel in an important match scheduled to take place in 1968. In 1977, Israel left the Asian Football Confederation and was included in the Oceania Federation (the continent of Australia ). Later, European countries sympathized with Israel, and it was finally returned to the European continent in 1992, and since then its chances for titles, participation in the World Cup or the Olympic Games are almost zero. According to the report, a lot of water has flowed into the river since Morocco boycotted Israel in 1968, until the signing of the “Abraham Accords” (with Bahrain and the UAE) in 2021, and then Morocco’s accession to these agreements, which are based on the principle of “warm peace” and comprehensive normalization politically and militarily, culturally and sportingly.
World Cup in Qatar
Many years ago, no Israeli media delegation could be present in Qatar, nor cross Saudi Arabian airspace, and this means that Israel cannot wait to return to the Asian Football Confederation and simply believes that the “Abraham Agreement” and the constant expansion of Asian relations with it are will contribute to the normalization of his team’s presence within the AFC, where it might be able to achieve success and participate in the World Cup.
“Madar” concludes with the words: “However, the reactions of the Arab and international masses during the World Cup in Qatar could wake up Israel from the euphoria that followed the “Abraham Agreement” and bring it back to reality, as many reject it. international crowds who did not leave the match without raising the flag of Palestine, and prayed for its liberation.”