ABSTRACT

A few years ago, on a visit to an academic conference in Jordan, I found myself speaking to a Jordanian friend about football.1 I learned that parallel to the European Champions League, there is also an Asian Champions League, and that the Jordanian champions, Al-Faisali, were to play on the day of the conference against Al-Majd, a top Syrian club from Damascus. Two hours later, I was sitting with another friend in the Amman international stadium, cheering for the local Jordanian side surrounded by about 20,000 excited Arab football fans. As an enthusiastic Jewish-Israeli football fan, it was a unique experience for me on many levels. First, which is more to do with the culture of football and the related research on this culture, I felt how the game really connected people and brought them together. It was one of the greatest moments I have experienced in Jordan, and I felt much closer to these football fans – as their mood shifted from happiness to anger throughout the game – than I felt towards my academic colleagues at the conference. Second, it was this cultural or ethnographic experience in the Middle East, which I took part in (quite indirectly, I know) that has clarified to me quite bluntly, the extent to which Israel is disconnected from the region. It was a mere demonstration to the ongoing cultural exchanges that exist in the region, from international football matches to academic conferences, and in which Israel as a state and Jewish-Israelis as people, hardly exist.