Until relatively recently, the state of Israel was preoccupied with its military security and paid little attention to cultural politics. However, the emergence of other ‘battlegrounds’ has seen a shift to ‘soft power’ in an attempt to generate a more benevolent global image. This paper spotlights an international sporting event which ordinarily attracts very limited interest from the mainstream media. However, when held in Israel, it created much greater interest. The paper identifies the UEFA’s Men’s U-21 tournament, held in Israel in 2013, to assess how different groups responded to the event: celebratory by the host nation and its supporters, the Israeli Football Association and UEFA; critical amongst Palestinians and their supporters in the international community. The paper identifies how the Israeli state is using ‘hasbara’ in an attempt to arrest its deteriorating international image and shows how the concept is empirically operationalized (‘hasbara in action’).
Ben-Porat, Amir. Cosi (non) fan tutte. Women in the Football Pitch. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2015 (in Hebrew).
Women began to play soccer some time after this game was coded and turned into the game par excellence of the working class in England, and thus stirred heated emotions. The men united against them: the English Football Association banned them and its members were ordered not to cooperate with them; the male-controlled press denounced them and determined the game as not suitable for them. But nevertheless, and despite of it all, English women founded football clubs of their own and held games among themselves. Over the years, women’s soccer expanded to other Western countries, and then on to South America, Asia and Africa. One hundred and seventy-seven countries now have women’s soccer, including Israel. Women’s soccer enjoys a “relative autonomy” around the world, granted to it by national and international soccer institutions, led by men. Women achieved this autonomy through a persistent and unremitting struggle that paralleled the feminist struggle that took place on the political front, but also set apart from it. In Israel, Women’s soccer is conducted on the margins: the number of groups is not large, the budget is low, and the audience is scarce. Its status is as a leaf falling in the forest: with no one to see nor hear. And yet, during the season the players take to the field week after week, to show success in spite of it all, to themselves, and to others.
Tamir, Ilan, and Yair Galily. “When the Private Sphere Hides from the Public Sphere: The Power Struggle between Israeli National Identity and Football Fandom.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport (early view; online first).
On 13 May 2012 Israeli sports fans were deprived of one of the season’s most important soccer tournaments, after the scheduling of both legs of the UEFA Champion’s League semi-final matches overlapped with national days of remembrance. A week before, Israel’s sports channels refused to play the first leg of semi-final matches since one of the games coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day. And, again, a week later, Israeli sports fans were confounded with the same issue, with Memorial Day coinciding with the soccer tournament’s second leg of semi-final games. It is well known that sports spectatorship is a transformative experience through which fans escape their humdrum lives, just as religious experiences help the faithful to transcend their everyday existence. In an era where alternative channels (television, Internet, etc.) are easy to find, we used in-depth interviews with sports fans to learn more about the dilemma of both public and private media expressions and watching and enjoying soccer matches while the Israeli nation is in agony. Findings reveal a whole different viewing experience whereas instead of group watching, cheering and eating together rituals, on a regular match day, an unaccompanied, quiet and even embarrassing experience was marked.
Sports media offer a unique discourse site because the nationalistic nature of reporting is often radicalized and in most cases ‘the national flag is waved with eternal enthusiasm’. Therefore, this study examined changes in the coverage of the Israeli national soccer team between 1949 and 2006 through an exploration of the identity of the journalistic narratives’ storytellers and protagonists. Our findings illuminate a complex picture: whereas during the Israel’s formative era sports reporters pursued a patriotic narrative that praised the players for their fighting spirit and contribution to national prestige, in recent decades the sports sections echo a new variety of local, professional, and gender voices that challenge the supposedly natural hegemony of national identity. These changes can be explained by factors rooted in the fields of journalism, sports, and the politics of identity.