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Thursday, December 31, 2009


When we last saw the Iranian soccer team, they were busy banning four players who took the field in Seoul, South Korea wearing green armbands in support of President Ahmadinejad's opposition. It seems that the soccer team's management has a custom of sending out New Year's greetings at the end of December to every national soccer team in the World. This year, they made a mistake: They sent a New Year's greeting to Israel.
Mohammad Ali Ardebili, director of foreign relations for the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, told Army Radio that he had not intended to send the missive to the Israel Football Association.

"It is a greeting sent to every country in the world," Ardebili said. He quickly then inquired: "Are you talking from Israel? I can't speak with you. It's a mistake, it's a mistake."

The greeting was received in Israel by the head of the Israel Football Association's legal department, Amir Navon.

"He came into my office asking me if I thought it was a mistake," said body spokesman Gil Levanoni/ "So I told him that I didn't know, but that we should send in a reply."

Levanoni and Navon said they replied to the greeting with a "happy new year to all the good people of Iran," and said: "We also added a wink."

Recall this picture from the 2008 Olympics - another 'mistake.'

The Russian coach in the picture with the Iranian basketball player is 'American - Israeli' (just like me - even born in Massachusetts) David Blatt.

I'm not a big fan of Israeli sports, but as many of you know, I am a big fan of American sports. That's partly because of the level of play, and partly because most of the religious Jewish community here shuns Israeli sports because they're Jewish players who for the most part play on the Sabbath (yes, I know there are other reasons why the religious Jewish community here shuns professional sports, but that's another discussion for another time). There's a lot to be said for competitive sports.

The ancient Greeks used to declare a cease fire during the Olympics. Sports have been used to bring countries together who were enemies: recall the famous ping pong match between the United States and Communist China in the early 1970's.

My guess is that were it up to the Iranian soccer team's players, most of them would love to compete against Israel. And I know that the Israeli national soccer team would love to compete against Iran. Maybe someday it will happen. But unfortunately, some other things are going to have to happen first. The mullahs aren't into sports either.


At 8:09 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

You can read it as defiance of the mullahs who are deeply hated in Iran. The more they hate Israel, the more pro-Israel ordinary Iranians are. Its less an embrace of Israel than a message to a reviled regime - and an unmistakable one at that. I'd imagine Ahmedinejad wasn't too happy on hearing the greeting.


At 8:34 PM, Blogger mrzee said...

In the 1950's, at the World Bridge Championships, Egypt refused to play Israel and the World Bridge Federation subsequently declared that any team which refused to play a match would no longer be eligible to play in the World Championships.

There's never been a problem since, although, about five years ago, the Lebanese team had a car accident on their way to a match against Israel. I heard from a very credible source that Hezbollah had visited the Lebanese team prior to leaving Lebanon.


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