All the Jewish players and storylines to watch out for at the 2022 World Cup

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JTA — It’s a World Cup like no other in recent memory — starting in late November.

That’s because it will take place in Qatar, where temperatures don’t usually drop below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The headlines focus on the country’s widely criticized human rights record. Preparations for the first World Cup to be held in the Arab world took years, cost more than $200 billion and, according to human rights organizations, resulted in the deaths of thousands of migrant workers.

Qatar also has no diplomatic relations with Israel, leaving Israeli fans in a tense situation.

But beneath those headlines are other Jewish angles of the world’s greatest sports spectacle.

USA have 2 Jewish players

Professional Jewish male soccer players from the United States competing on the world stage are a rare phenomenon. But this year, the United States Men’s National Team has two on its roster, including the likely starting goaltender.

Matt Turner, a 28-year-old New Jersey native who didn’t start playing football in earnest until he was 14, struggled to prove himself in high school, college and early in his career professional. After being drafted into Major League Soccer, Turner joined the New England Revolution in 2016 and eventually rose to the sport’s top goalkeeping echelon in 2020. He is now the backup goalkeeper for Arsenal, one of the top clubs in the English Premier League.

Turner’s father is Jewish and his mother is Catholic, but he identifies more with the Jewish tradition, according to a profile in The Athletic. Turner’s great-grandparents fled Europe during World War II because they were Jewish and changed their name to Turner at Ellis Island, he explained on football journalist Grant Wahl’s podcast . Turner obtained Lithuanian citizenship in 2020.

Turner’s teammates on defense include By Andre Yedlin, a Seattle native who was raised Jewish but said he practices Buddhism. Yedlin has a large Hebrew tattoo on his right shoulder honoring his great-grandparents.

DeAndre Yedlin points the finger at supporters, Wednesday, November 9, 2022, in New York, after being announced as a defender on the United States men’s national soccer roster for the next World Cup in Qatar. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Yedlin, who is of African American, Native American and Latvian descent, is in his first year of a four-year contract with MLS side Inter Miami after spending five seasons with Newcastle United in the Premier League. He is the only player in the American squad with World Cup experience; he served in a bench role in 2014.

Although Yedlin’s playing time this year isn’t much different, his presence off the pitch is seen as an asset.

“He’s a sticky guy,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said. “He’s there for the team, he creates an atmosphere for the team. Sometimes he’s a shoulder to cry on or talk to. Other times he is a motivator.

A pair of Jewish Telemundo announcers are back

Telemundo’s coverage of the tournament, as it has for years in the United States, will feature many “goooaaaaaals”.

That’s because it will include six-time Emmy Award-winning Andres Cantor, the Jewish Argentinian announcer who is perhaps most responsible for popularizing long goal calls in English commentary in the United States. .

In this Wednesday, May 16, 2018, file photo, Argentinian sportscaster and Telemundo soccer broadcaster Andres Cantor smiles during an interview about his assignment to the 2018 World Cup, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

He will be joined by one of his mentees, two-time Emmy-nominated Sammy Sadovnik, who has worked for Telemundo since 2007 and covered the sport since 1989. He is a proud Jew from Peru who visits Israel every year.

Israel is not in the tournament and has not qualified since 1970

Israel’s first and only World Cup appearance dates back to 1970.

Israel was a founding member of the Asian Football Confederation, which joined in 1954, and would enjoy international success culminating in winning the 1964 AFC Cup. But Israel’s success was overshadowed by geopolitics – from many AFC member countries began to boycott Israel over time.

In 1958, Israel won their World Cup qualifying group without facing a single opponent due to protests. In 1974, the AFC expelled Israel from the confederation in a 17-13 vote hosted by Kuwait.

Luigi Riva of Italy tries to score against Israeli goalkeeper Itzhak Vissoker during the Group B qualifying round of their World Cup match at the Luis Dosal stadium in Toluca, Mexico June 11, 1970. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Raoul Fornezza)

Israel would wander in the footballing wilderness for two decades before becoming a full member of the Union of European Football Associations. Israel remains the only UEFA member without any territory in Europe.

This membership leads to tough competition: Israel is in the same conference as football powers like Spain, France and Italy. In the 2022 qualifiers, Israel were grouped with Denmark, also a consistently top team.

Despite the tough competition, the Israel Football Association is happy with what it is.

“We prefer our clubs and national teams to play at European level,” IFA spokesperson Shlomi Barzel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2018. “We find a warm, welcoming and empowering home in Europe. .”

Qatar allows Israelis to participate in the World Cup

Israelis are not normally allowed to enter Qatar, and direct flights from Israel are not permitted in the Muslim-majority country. But for the World Cup, Qatar has announced that it will allow direct flights from Tel Aviv to its capital Doha for Israeli fans, and subject to Israeli government approval, for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. also.

Israeli diplomats will also be allowed to offer support to Israelis during the World Cup – which will be crucial since Qatar, which is part of the Association of Jewish Communities in the Gulf, has a very limited Jewish community presence. Chabad-Lubavitch chapters normally help Jewish tourists source kosher food and offer other support, but the closest Chabad center to the region is in the United Arab Emirates.

And while as many as 20,000 Israelis could make the trip, the Israeli government is still urging them to be cautious.

“The Iranian team will participate in the World Cup and we estimate that tens of thousands of fans will follow it, and there will be other fans from the Gulf countries with which we do not have diplomatic relations,” warned a senior Israeli diplomat. of a campaign by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Minimize your Israeli presence and your Israeli identity in the name of your personal security.”

Israeli politics told directly

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