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Waving the Israeli flag

AFP reports on the fury in the Arab world over Ghana’s John Pantsil waving the Israeli flag during the match with the Czech Republic. Commentators in the dreary government-controlled Egyptian press could barely contain their fury, accusing him of being a “Mossad agent” or being paid by Israel. I suppose the latter is technically correct as Pantsil plays for the Tel Aviv club Ha-Poel.

And for those on the left who keep accusing Israel of being an “apartheid state” it is worth noting that Pantsil is black. As are two other Ghanaian players who play for Israeli clubs – Samuel Adjei for Ashdod and Emmanuel Pappoe for Hapoel Kfar Saba. And all of them can sit on whichever park bench in Tel Aviv they like. As for Egypt – well they failed to even qualify for the World Cup. Perhaps they should think about recruiting a couple of Israeli players…..

Fury in Egypt over Ghana’s Israeli flag waver
By Jailan Zayan
Agence France Presse (AFP)
June 19, 2006

Ghana defender John Paintsil’s waving of an Israeli flag to celebrate his team’s World Cup goals drew a barrage of insults and furious reactions in Egyptian newspapers.

Paintsil, who plays for Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv, celebrated the two goals in Ghana’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic by pulling an Israeli flag out of his sock and waving it at the cameras.

“The ignorant and stupid Paintsil, who spent 20 days in Egypt during the last African Nations Cup, plays for Hapoel,” sports commentator Alaa Sadek wrote in the daily Al-Akhbar, explaining to baffled Egyptian audiences Painstil’s link to Israel.

“Egyptians supported the Ghanaian team all the way until the 82nd minute, and regretted it after the Israeli flag (waving),” screamed a bold red headline in the independent daily Al-Masry al-Yom Monday.

“As soon as the referee blew his whistle to start the match, Egyptians were out enthusiastically, almost hysterically supporting Ghana, until defender John Paintsil took out the Israeli flag,” read the paper’s front page article.

The live commentator on the Arab satellite channel broadcasting all World Cup matches in the region abruptly cut short his trademark “goooaaaaaaal” when Paintsil brought out the flag.

“What are you doing, man?” the bewildered commentator said.

The main question on Egyptian lips after the match was “why?”

Some papers described Paintsil as a “Mossad agent”, others said “an Israeli had paid him to do it” but the most elaborate theory was offered by the top-selling state-owned daily Al-Ahram.

“The real reason,” sports analyst Hassan el-Mestekawi wrote, stems from the fact that many Ghanaian players go through football training camps set up by an Israeli coach who “discovered the treasure of African talent, and abused the poverty of the continent’s children” with the ultimate goal of selling them off to European clubs.

“The training program for these children starts every morning with a salute to the Israeli flag,” Mestekawi claimed.

FIFA said they had taken note of the flag-waving and that although there was nothing in the rules to prevent it, they hoped not to see a repetition.

Egyptian football fans who were out supporting Ghana on Saturday’s match were equally rattled when the player took out the Israeli flag and dubbed him “the Israghani” (Israeli-Ghanaian).

“We were totally supporting Ghana and we were so excited by how well they were doing,” Ashraf al-Berri, who watched the match with a dozen friends told AFP.

“We were screaming with joy, but the whole room went quiet when Paintsil took out the flag. We didn’t really know how to react,” he said.

“As an Egyptian I am very sensitive when it comes to Israel,” Osama Mohy, who watched the match at a friend’s house, told AFP.

“If Mido scores, would he wave the England flag? And if he did everyone would hate him for it,” he said refering to Egyptian striker Mido (Ahmed Hossam) who plays for England’s Tottenham Hotspur.

African champions Egypt failed to qualify for the World Cup finals.

UPDATE: Ghana backs down

The BBC reports that Ghana apologised!

The Ghanaian Football Association has apologised after defender John Pantsil waved an Israeli flag to celebrate the World Cup win over the Czech Republic.

Spokesman Randy Abbey said the Ghanaian FA was not taking sides in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Pantsil plays in Israel for Hapoel Tel Aviv wanted to thank Israeli fans who travelled to support him, Abbey said

“He’s unaware of international politics. We apologise to anybody who was offended,” said Abbey. “We promise that it will never happen again.

“He did not act out of malice for the Arab people or in support of Israel. He was naive… we don’t need to punish him.”

Pantsil celebrated the two Ghana goals on Saturday by taking out a small Israeli flag from his sock and waving it above his head.

Abbey said neither the Ghanaian FA nor Ghana as a country had a strong political position on the subject and said they were just in Germany for the World Cup.

“We are not in support or against Israel or the Arab nations. We are here to do football, we are not here to do politics.”