With two wins from their two games last week, the Israeli national football team gained some well needed momentum in their quest for qualification for the Euro 2012 Championship
I don’t often find the occasion to write about football in this blog; I don’t get to see much Israeli football either – my local team, Beitar Jerusalem is best avoided – their fans linked to the more unsavoury elements of anti-Arab right-wing politics. And whenever I go out to see a game it’s typically a depressing experience as I witness Arsenal limp out of yet another tournament; invariably at the hands of either Barcelona or Manchester United.
So I guess it was a novel experience to see “my team” on the winning side last week with Israel notching up some decent wins against Latvia and Georgia. The wins leave them 3rd in the group and with a real chance of at least advancing to the play-offs if they can take some points from their upcoming games against Greece and Croatia. Okay, so beating Georgia and Latvia at home isn’t anything to get too excited about, but I’ve seen Israel before, but this time round they looked genuinely classy at times, with some half-decent goals thrown in for good measure. With a young team and their talisman Yossi Benayoun back in the frame after 6-month injury lay-off who’s to say they can’t qualify to the Euros for the first time ever.
Whilst I’m more up for seeing England and Denmark in the Euro 2012 finals, it would be interesting to see Israel there as well. If for nothing else it would uplifting for the country to unite around something more positive on the world stage than merely the continual deflection of criticism on the whole Palestinian issue – not to mention Dana International’s upcoming performance in Eurovision Song Contest for that matter (yes, consider yourselves warned!) Given the fact that football is on of the very few arenas in Israel where Jewish and Arab-Israeli communities intersect could there be a common cause for the two communities to unite around?? Hmm, that’s probably far too much to ask; and the last time I looked there was only one Arab-Israeli on the national football team…
If you have a few minutes to spare here are the highlights from the aforementioned Israeli victories against Latvia and Georgia.