U21 EM: Q&A med James M. Dorsey

Noen ganger er det helt ålreit med korte svar på store spørsmål. Alt kan konkretiseres ned til noen få linjer. Som her, i en Q&A om forholdet mellom fotball og politikk i Midtøsten.

James M. Dorsey er en erfaren journalist som har dekket Midtøsten i en mannsalder. I de siste årene har han skrevet mye om fotballens posisjon i Midtøsten. Hvis noen blir nysgjerrige på kombinasjonen fotball og politikk i Midtøsten, skriver Dorsey regelmessig på sin blogg: The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. Der fokuserer han blant annet på utviklingen i Qatar, i forkant av VM i 2022. Nærmere jul, kommer Dorsey ut med en bok under samme navn som bloggen. Den ser ut til å bli en egen Fotball forklarer Midtøsten. Denne Q&A-en forsøker å gjøre det samme med U21 EM.

Q: First, can you say a few words about the political position of football in the Middle East?

A: Politics is written into the DNA of soccer in the Middle East and North Africa. A majority of major clubs were founded with some form of political association. Soccer pitches in the region are until today political and social battlefields.

Q: What does it mean for the state of Israel to host the U21 Euros?

A: Like any major international tournament, the U-21 offers Israel the opportunity to showcase itself. That is particularly important at a moment that is Israel is under mounting criticism for its policies towards the Palestinians, including settlement and continued occupation.

Q: After your opinion, is football being used politically by Israel?

A: Football has been professionalized in Israel. As a result, the clubs’ political associations are often a fixture of the past. Nonetheless, perceptions persist and like in the case of Beitar Jerusalem are reinforced by fan behavior. With regard to the U-21, there is no doubt.

Q: What does it say about UEFA giving the u21 Euros to Israel?

A: The notion that you can seperate sports and politics is an illusion. Whatever UEFA would have decided in terms of Israel it would have been perceived at least in part as a decision with political significance.

Q: Under what kind of conditions is Palestinian football taking place?

A: The occupation and blockade of Gaza has an impact. Players find it difficult to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, within the West Bank and abroad. In addition, equipment has to be cleared by Israeli authorities.

Q: How do you see the future for Palestinian football?

A: For the Palestinians soccer is both a sport and a vehicle to assert nationhood and achieve statehood. It is also a tool to change traditional attitudes like in the case of women’s soccer.
Q: And last, what kind of legacy do you think this u21 euro will have?

A: Its too early to tell. Much will depend on if and how much protest it engenders.