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World Cup fever…at a Berkeley deli…and in Israel

8:47 am Tuesday, June 15, 2010
by andy altman-ohr




What could be better than sinking your teeth into a corned beef on rye while watching the World Cup final ?

You can do it Saul's Deli in Berkeley.

Since the start of the World Cup last month, the Shattuck Avenue delicatessen has been showing games its big screen. And it's quite a big screen, too. Very big. And positioned way up high. Nice job, guys.

NOW, there are only two games left, and Saul's is showing both of them:

3rd-place game: Germany vs. Uruguay, Saturday, July 10, 11:30 a.m.

Championship:  Netherlands vs. Spain, Sunday, July 11, 11:30 a.m.

For more information, call Saul's at (510) 848-3354  or visit www.saulsdeli.com.


ALSO -- CHECK OUT MY COLUMN about vuvuzelas (the annoying World Cup noisemakers) and their relationship to the shofar. Click here.



Now, for those of you who have not followed the World Cup, you might not know this: there were 32 teams from around the globe that qualified ... and Israel was not one of them. In fact, Israel has been to the World Cup only one time (in 1970).

My knowledge of Israeli soccer and the soccer scene in the Holy Land is nil-nil, so here I'm going to turn it over to Paul Shindman, a Canadian journalist living in Israel. I've read some of his hockey postings before, but now he's all over soccer. He filed this report for the blog Canada's Israel (which covers things that are Canada-Israel related). He wrote this at the start of the tournament, so some references might be outdated.



Here is his report:

Canada and Israel – Soccer Equals

By Paul Shindman

That’s right, despite years of effort and national angst in their respective sporting worlds, both Israel and Canada are on an equal footing – neither country is at the world cup in South Africa.


Looks like one heckuva great tournament. It’s been 40 years since Israel last appeared at the Mondial, and Israel is among the multitude of nations where soccer (known locally as football) is the number one sport.

Are Israelis following this years World Cup? Of course! And you can’t miss it. Newspaper ads, TV ads, radio broadcasts, contests on breakfast cereal boxes, game parties, national flags, and lots and lots and lots of hype.

The government run Channel 1 TV won the bidding to broadcast the games in Israel. Channel 1 is run by the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Israel’s equivalent of the CBC. And they know they’ll get both the viewers, and the big bucks for commercial sponsors. The IBA Mondial website is an orgy of soccer links for world cup fanatics, including a countdown clock showing the time left to the start of the final championship game.

The soccer TV hype is very similar to the recent Olympic hockey in Canada only a few months ago. During the year Canada has Saturday night hockey, and Israel has Saturday night soccer. The Israeli icons of soccer broadcasting are play-by-play announcer Meir Einstein and colour commentator Avi Ratzon. They’ve been at it for decades, and instead of HNIC’s Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, I see the Israeli duo more on the level with the legendary combo of Dick Irvine and the late Danny Gallivan (ok, I’m dating myself).

Canadians would also recognized some of the corporate sponsors paying the big advertising bucks to match the huge viewer ratings, including Fuji Photo and Schweppes beverages, along with top Israeli companies.

The World Cup is featured broadly every day in every newspaper and on every radio station. There are Mondial magazines for kids – designed by marketing gurus whose goal is to drive Israeli parents into bankruptcy as their kids collect picture stickers of every single player to stick into the magazine. I know that there are 32 teams and 23 players per team, but somehow the album has only 640 stickers.

My two soccer playing kids are young enough that they’re not interesting in reading this blog, and they have not yet discovered where to buy the stickers while I’m working overtime at distracting them…

Soccer in Israel is like the rest of non-North America, it’s not called soccer. So, your Hebrew lesson for today is the word for football: KUH-door REGgel (but the “door” is a longer “oo” like in Bloor St. in Toronto). Kuh-door is ball, and reggel is, you guessed it, foot.

Like Canada (1986), Israel has been to the World Cup a whopping once. Israel last appeared at the soccer World Cup in 1970, where they had a pretty miserly two ties and one loss, and were outscored 3 to 1 in those three games.

However, unlike Team Canada, the Israelis did score once, while the Canucks were shut out 5-0 in their 3 games in 1986. For you purists out there, Israel qualified in 1970 when only 16 teams made it to the top championship, not like the 32 nations today in South Africa.

For whatever reasons of planning, policy, talent, timing and fate, the 1970 team was Israel’s best to date. Despite the local product improving and the Israeli system producing players who are signed by major European clubs (like Israel national team captain Yossi Benayoun of Liverpool), Israel keeps failing to qualify. Why hasn’t Israel made it back ever since? That’s sports politics, and requires much more than a single blog (but if you’re in Jerusalem we can talk about it over beers…).

The demographics of Israel soccer fans have similarities to Canada in that there are immigrants from all over the world. Thus, just like right now in Canada there are lots of Israelis cheering for South Africa, Brazil, England, America, Argentina and France, to name some. But unlike Canada, there is not a huge Italian population here, so if Italy wins again (like they did in 2006 and 1982) there won’t be huge parades like there were across Canada.

But if Argentina or France wins, well, count on a big street party in Tel Aviv. The native Israelis will join them of course, because heck, they’re all soccer fans and it’ll be an excuse for a party.

I’ll end off with a link to one of Israel’s best Football World Cup contributions – the football names song that local rock legend Arik Einstein made for the 1990 World Cup. You’ll love it – the words for the song are the names of the dozens of top players from around the world in 1990, but with almost no other lyrics.

My kids (even my girls) still sing it on a regular basis and drive the parental units nuts. Enjoy the song, and may the best team win.

Assorted notes: Pizza Hut in Israel is  offering a special when ordering the World Cup on the HOT cable tv network.  Not only do you get the games in HD, but you get a Pizza Hut family size pizza for 9.90 shekels (about $2.75 Canadian) .... Not to be outdone, Dominos Pizza in Israel is offering World Cup specials on their www.dominos.co.il. That's where the image atop this blog comes from.


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