Over the weekend, I commented about John Pantsil, the fullback for Ghana, who pulled out an Israeli flag while celebrating a goal against the Czech Republic in a World Cup match on Saturday. Naturally, this gesture isn’t playing well in the Arab world. Reportedly, the live commentator on the Arab satellite channel broadcasting all World Cup matches in the region abruptly cut short his trademark “goooaaaaaaal” when Pantsil brought out the flag. Oh, how I wish I had been watching that broadcast.
In Egypt the reaction has been a mixture of anger and puzzlement that Pantsil would have done such a thing. Explanations range from the economic — that Pantsil was paid to do it — to the paranoid — that Pantsil is a Mossad agent. One sports commentator concluded that Pantsil was indoctrinated at a football camp run by Israelis who “abuse the poverty of the continent’s children” with the ultimate goal of selling players off to European clubs. At least he stopped short of the blood libel.
In any case, it’s clear that Egyptian fans won’t be supporting Ghana anymore. But does this mean they’ll be rooting for the U.S. on Thursday?
JOHN adds: No good deed goes unpunished. Ghana has now apologized for Pantsil’s “naive” action:
“He was obviously unaware of the implications of what he did… He’s extremely popular in Israel and he wanted to thank the fans who traveled to see him play,” [Ghana FA spokesman] Abbey said.
“It was unfortunate that the player was ignorant about the political situation.”
Yeah, too bad about those implications and that “political situation.” Here is a photo of Pantsil when he was still naive:
UPDATE: Christian Craddock writes:
I think that all of us who support his celebration with the Israeli flag should order Ghana football jerseys personalized with Pantsil’s name and number. It would be a great, understated statement that would send a pretty clear message of where our support lies to those that recognize the jersey and the player.
Good thought, but where do you go to buy Ghana soccer equipment? Beats me, but our readers know everything. Let’s have a link!
FURTHER UPDATE: An amazing number of readers came through with links. (Paul must be right about soccer being more popular than we thought!) This one looks like the shirt he’s wearing in the picture; here is a Ghana t-shirt. Both can be customized.