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Football Focus in Israel

International football
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Israel fans

What is the more unlikely scenario: Ireland beating Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup or the game itself being carried live on Israeli television?

As unbelievable as both those events sound, we saw them take place with our own eyes last weekend in Tel Aviv.

Our reporter, Damian Johnson, and I have just spent three days in Israel filming a piece for Football Focus looking at preparations for arguably their most important home game in 50 years.

And the sight of Israelis enthusiastically embracing St. Patrick’s Day with the help of their good friend Guinness was merely the first of many eye-opening experiences.

Our three days started with “St. Patrik” (that’s how one newspaper put it, though you didn’t feel like correcting the typo but more applauding the effort) and ended by interviewing a Premiership star late at night in a car park.

In between, we were warmly welcomed by everyone, be it locals, actors or politicians, treated to some stunning scenery and felt completely safe and at ease.

Shortly after arriving, we filmed at an Israeli Third Division game between Nes Tziona and Bnei Tamra.

The game pitted Israeli Jews against Israeli Arabs and if you’re looking for sport as a wider metaphor for life then this was ideal.

The tackles flew in and both benches offered colourful opinions to the referee but there was no hint of unrest between the sides and handshakes and hugs were witnessed after a 1-0 win to the home team.

The city itself is a blend between Los Angeles and Athens what with the heavy traffic, frequent honking of horns and tall buildings imperiously peering over its citizens.

By night, the bars and clubs stay open until the last customer is ready to leave, and that last customer probably left at around the same time on Sunday as we set off for Jerusalem to get some shots for the top of our piece (that’s what we usually mean by suffering for our art – an early wake up call).

Despite the city's history and beauty, it was never going to play host to England as its location to the evident problems would have made it a logistical nightmare for the footballing and local authorities.

We spent the majority of the afternoon and evening interviewing politicians and pundits back in Tel Aviv.

They were all keen to stress that there would be no security issues and everyone could feel comfortable visiting the country.

“We’re asking the English to leave their helmets at home,” remarked Silvan Shalom, former Foreign Minister.

On the flipside, the Israelis aren’t fearful that hooligans are going to trash Tel Aviv but have faith in the security that is in place day in, day out (upon entering a bar or hotel you’re asked if you’re carrying a weapon…it’s generally best to leave innuendo at home over here) and the English themselves.

Before leaving, we covered Israel’s training session and press conference at the national stadium, Ramat Gan, which is in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Getting access to the players was as difficult as ever but in a plot twist more in keeping with a movie, the press officer made a phone call, asked me to turn around and speak to a gentleman sitting high up in the stands.

This man was Tal Ben Haim’s father and he instructed us to follow him out to where he had parked. Sure enough, Ben Haim turned up and with the rest of the press grilling Israel’s coach Dror Kashtan about his squad selection, we had Bolton’s defender all to ourselves.

Back at the airport and one final surprise awaited us. It was the middle of the night and all was calm when suddenly hundreds of students started to sing. “Safe flight”, said one of the girls passing me by.

Behind her, the others carried on, their voices lifting out into the air that the planes would soon travel through.

Whilst Israel might be a long way from achieving it, the songs sounded like peace.

Watch Glen's feature on Saturday's Football Focus: 1210 BST on BBC ONE

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comment by Arsenal (U4441664)

posted Mar 22, 2007

'Er, it's an important game because it you could actually qualify you silly tart.'

Wow! It's the first recorded case of a Baboon using a computer

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posted Mar 22, 2007

To hilhailsid,
The reason Israel is playing in Europe is that Israel's neighboring countries (with support from people like you) refuse to play against it. I assure you that Israel would love to play against them...

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posted Mar 22, 2007

I hope you all read the Shearer column where he said a draw with Israel and a win with Andorra would be satisfactory.

They'll be playing for a lot too, the Israelis.

And just for some "ancient history"; in the 1920s; a top team in the world that toured was of that faith.

I once found some pictures of teams of yesteryear, I don't have time to find the real good ones right now, But here is one to show you, back in Eastern Europe in the '20s and '30s; football was a big deal with them.

I don't care for them to win this time, against England; but otherwise, I haven't minded watching them too much in the past and as I've said, unless they've changed from the team in the World Cup qualifying games, they have Arabs playing for them.

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posted Mar 23, 2007

This article has made me smile all day. Never has any reporter from the BBC let
alone from UK media captured Israel in its true light. Ive been waiting for this
game since I was born having grown up half my life here and half in Israel. The
ultimate question always being asked, who will I support...both teams have great
potential, both lack the mentality to go all the way. The only advantage Israel
has, is its youth & great manager. Equate that with the current so called 'non-personality'
manager & over paid fantastic but lazy players and hey presto, we have the
winner....GO ISRAEL!!!!

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comment by Nuages (U6965438)

posted Apr 9, 2007

I think there is a mistake in this report.

Either it is badly worded or it intentionally implies that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

"on Sunday as we set off for Jerusalem to get some shots for the top of our piece [...].

Despite the capital’s history and beauty, "

Jerusalem is not the internationally recognised capital of Israel, as can be confirmed at wiki

"United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 declared that the 1980 Knesset law (the "Jerusalem Law") declaring Jerusalem as Israel's "eternal and indivisible" capital was "null and void and must be rescinded forthwith". This resolution, not taken under chapter VII of the charter (the binding chapter), advised member states to withdraw their diplomatic representation from the city as a punitive measure. Most nations with embassies in Jerusalem complied, and relocated their embassies to Tel Aviv prior to the adoption of Resolution 478. Following the withdrawals of Costa Rica and El Salvador in August 2006, no country maintains its embassy in Jerusalem, although Paraguay and Bolivia have theirs in nearby Mevasseret Zion."

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posted Apr 24, 2007

Englands response to George Bush! 5* qaulity comedy.(r-e-t-a-r-d)

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