The inescapable news at present involves the complex continuation of fighting over Gaza between Israel and Palestine. It is difficult to fully comprehend the situation due to the varying levels of accuracy reported by the media. Football, as is very often the case, has been used as a vehicle to promote political support to both sides of the conflict (mostly towards Palestine). Due to the overwhelming level of global consciousness that football attracts, the sport is consistently used as a platform of expression. An example of this can be seen with the intervention of governing body FIFA fining supporters of Dundalk and St Johnstone (to name a few) for their ‘provocative political symbol’. To say the Palestinian flag is a source of provocation is somewhat hypocritical by FIFA (another example of the hypocrisy of FIFA) as they actually recognise the state of Palestine, whereas many notable global organisations do not.
As mentioned, the Palestine/Israel topic is an extremely complex case with examples of sincere human suffering on both sides of the Strip. This article is not intended to offer a background on the matter, instead, we shall focus on the good that football can do to soothe tensions.
I received an email recently from an Israeli photographer named Gad Salner. In it he explained how he and his partner (Vadim Tarasov) were covering Jewish and Palestinian diversity reflected in lower league amateur football matches. They looked to capture the ‘stadiums, cultural aspects and the landscapes’ on their unique project titled ‘Kaduregel-Shefel’ (low football).
‘As photographers and lower-league football enthusiasts, we capture with our cameras what no one outside Israel believes is possible: engagement of the Israeli and Arab people for a common cause — football. From forgotten Arab villages of the north to dusty Jewish neighbourhoods in the south, we visited places where the seemingly ever-present tension between cultures evaporated, and where diversity of their cultures is celebrated instead.’
It seems that contemporary news focuses on reporting the misery and wrongdoing in man. Very rarely do we see such tremendous movements reported in the news. For these two groups to overlook their differences and invest in the common participation of football is extraordinary.
‘We started the road trip at fourth division match, in the Arab village of Umm El Fahem ( أُمّ ٱلْفَحْم) where we were stopped by a local police officer, asking for our ID, to check that we are not right wing extremists looking to for trouble. He wasn’t the only one that day that asked himself what are we doing there. We visited Bne-Yichelel FC, the wonderful Jewish-Ethiopian team from Rehovot, we visited Nujidat, the Muslim Bedouin village, at their league qualification gala (following promotion to the fourth division) and Met the Jewish-Russian goalkeeper. We travelled to the southern forgotten city of Dimona, we were part of a crowd of thousands at the Tirrah vs. Kfar Kassem (two neighboring Arab villages) ‘classico’, and met their Jewish captain (who happens to be a kindergarten teacher in Tel-Aviv) and their local Arab fans, that write all of their banners in Hebrew..’
How fascinating to read that the Arabs express their partisanship to their team using Hebrew text. Gad and Vadim’s exhibition focuses on the human, urban and cultural landscapes of their divided and diverse society, with less emphasis being on the pitch itself. Their investigation of sociology can be seen through the images below. If you wish to contact Gad to find out more, email email@example.com