Saturday night promises to be a very lively affair. I’m told television sets in every city, in every country in Europe will be turned to the European Football Cup Championship. My friends and I have already staked out the bar where we will watch the game in the Sultanahmet District in the Old City of Istanbul.
Football has become an explosive issue in the Middle East thanks to Israel’s detention and incarceration of Mahmoud Sarsak, the Palestinian football star.
As he was leaving Gaza in July 2009 on his way to the West Bank to play football, Israeli officials arrested Sarsak and held him for the next THREE YEARS without formal charges being filed against him. Israel claimed he was linked to the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, which Sarsak denied. Perhaps Israel just wanted to side-line a promising athlete’s career. That’s one way to beat the opposition.
Another way to beat them is to destroy the opposition’s stadium so they become demoralized and have no place to practice, as Israel did in November 2012 during their 8-day bombardment in Gaza.
The Under-21 Football Tournament is scheduled to be held in Israel in early June 2013. There is a growing chorus of opposition urging officials to move the tournament out of Israel. Sarsak has added his voice to this campaign too.
And I think the Palestinians should buy some air time on the major networks Saturday night when all of those eyeballs are glued to their sets.