The World Cup and Jew

Apparently, according to Jonathan S. Tobin in last week’s The Jewish Exponent, Jews and the World Cup aren’t a sound mix. He claims that the World Cup federation discriminates against Israel. Since other Middle-East (read: Arab) countries are unwilling to play against Israel, Israel is forced to play in the European section – and thus play superior teams (France, Italy, Spain and Germany).
Tobin turns United State’s indifference to Soccer into a meritorous example of “American exceptionalism.” Even ignoring the absurdity of the charge – that because Israel has to play better teams “the federation that governs the cup is as anti-Zionist as the United Nations.” – Tobin’s own piece undermines its conclusion.
Earlier in the article, while discussing the metaphorical use of nationalism in sports, Tobin writes that “using athletes as surrogates for political causes – however just those causes might be – is also profoundly stupid.” So when it comes to Miracle on Ice, he claims there is no significance to the United State’s victory over the Soviet Union. Yet he still claims that when it comes to Israel and the World Cup – one can read into the actions of the federation.
An alternate reading of American indifference is tackled in The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup, a book filled with contributions from Dave Eggers to Franklin Foer. Here, according to Bryan Curtis in Slate, a group of young intellectuals have embraced the sport for its “cosmopolitanism,” internationalism, and sometimes “Anglophilia.”
In a sense, the reason for the intellectual embrace of soccer and the Jewish rejection of it (at least according to Tobin) follow from a similar source. Both deal with relationship to the international community. For Tobin, the international community is anti-semetic and anti-Israel. The cast of McSweeneys is clearly coming from a different place.

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