Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reconciling Political Views and National Football

Though, as we previously mentioned, we don't like getting into politics, sometimes we are forced to by prevailing current events. If you believe that politics and sports are entirely serperate realms, you just have to look at Egypts recently cancelled friendlies, or the continued absence of Gaza based players from the national team, to find evidence to the contrary. So much has happened in the last few months that has gotten everyone in the Arab world talking, and questioning the status quo. Here are my two cents. You may agree or disagree with my views, they are personal opinions I thought I should share.

I have not-so-recently become of the conviction that the modern Arab nation state is an artificial construct, like most countries formed after World War 2, whose borders were formed to mark administrative divisions by the powers. The resulting divisions among created national lines have served as quite an effective divide-and-conquer tool to the detriment of the Arab people, I believe. As a result I've lost all sentimental connection to flags, national anthems and other expressions of nationalism* you would find in the wide Arab world as to me, they are symbols of division.

As an avid follower of international football, this brought up an obvious problem, what about national football teams? Surely they are just as an expression of nationalism as any flag or song would be. Fortunately it was quite easy to reconcile between my support of the national team and my new-found Pan-Arabism(if you want to call it that).

Palestinian national symbols became what they are as symbols of defiance to oppression. It is no surprise we are seeing the Palestinian flag present in Tahrir Square and in protests against injustice all over the world. For Palestinians, the flag says: we are a people, this is our land. This expression goes entirely against the Zionist narrative of "a land without a people for a people without a land". And for that, I love it. Our national team is an equally powerful symbol. We exist, therefore we play. And you can tell by the roar from the stands of the Faisal Husseini Stadium that the sound of a ball hitting the back of the net is more real than any lousy politicians speech.

It used to be, early last decade, that the national team's mere participation in international events was satisfactory as an affirmation of existence. We have matured beyond that now as the press and the public demand results. We have an eventful few months ahead of us starting with the friendly against Tanzania on Wednesday, lets hope we get those results.

*When I speak of nationalism here, I refer to what I regard the divisive nationalism of the right.