Tomorrow, France and Israel play a soccer match in Tel-Aviv that will help determine the World Cup qualification prospects of both countries. The two teams are currently tied, along with Ireland, for the top spot in their qualification group. Switzerland is just behind these three. The group winner will automatically qualify; the runner-up will remain eligible. France won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000, but has struggled since. Israel helped eliminate France from qualification in 1994.
The Jerusalem Post reports on the conflict some French Jews feel in deciding which team to root for — the country they live in now, or the one they may feel compelled to move to if things continue as they are going in France, as an increasing number of French Jews have done recently. One such Jew, Aliette Kaen, told the JPost, “My family left France because we were not comfortable with how we felt as Jews there; I have felt more at home here in Israel than I felt in my entire 20 years in France.”
The story also includes this quotation from veteran French player Fabian Barthez, who threatened not to travel to Israel: “I see everything that is happening there and it worries me enormously.” Barthez seems to be living back in the days when he was still a great goalkeeper.
UPDATE: Abas Suan, an Israeli-Arab, is a key member of Israel’s national team. He scored a crucial goal against Ireland on Saturday. Calev Ben-David discusses the racist abuse directed at Suan, and other Israeli-Arab players, by extremist fans in Jerusalem.
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