Ben-Gurion after watching his first soccer game: ‘I won’t do that again’
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World Cup 2018

Ben-Gurion after watching his first soccer game: ‘I won’t do that again’

In 1957, Israel's founding father went to see an IDF team play and defeat a team from the French military in an Independence Day event. 'Our goalie was wonderful,' he declared

Undated IDF Soccer competition (Courtesy of the archive of the IDF and Defense Ministry)
Undated IDF Soccer competition (Courtesy of the archive of the IDF and Defense Ministry)

To mark the opening of the 2018 World Cup on Thursday the IDF released the archive documenting Israel founding father David Ben-Gurion’s outing to watch his first-ever soccer game.

Made up of a record of conversations the Israeli leader, who was also the defense minister, had on the matter with Shimon Peres and the generals Moshe Dayan and Meir Amit, the archive shows that although Ben-Gurion seemed to enjoy aspects of the beautiful game, it wasn’t an experience he was in a hurry to repeat.

“For the first time in my life I saw a soccer game,” he said after watching the Israeli and French militaries play against each other to mark Israel’s ninth independence day on May 11th 1957. “The game of the French was more beautiful, but our goalie was wonderful. They were fine at passing the ball back and forth to one another, but getting it into the goal – they failed.”

He added: “Our goalie was outstanding, he rolled over twice to catch the ball.”

Sports Day with the General Staff (Courtesy of the archive of the IDF and Defense Ministry/Avi Simchoni)

The then-Chief-of-Staff Moshe Dayan, replied jokingly: “He could have done it once, but for the benefit of the crowd he did it twice.”

Maj. Gen. Meir Amit of the Central Command told Ben-Gurion that one of the reasons for the team’s success — the IDF beat the French 3:1 — was his presence at the match.

The premier’s response? “I will not go to that again.”

Ben-Gurion also apparently raised the idea of setting up a permanent soccer team in the military.

May 15, 1948: David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, stands with an Israeli official who holds the signed document which proclaims the Establishment of the State of Israel. (AP Photo, File)

“There should be a team in the army that can train. This year we cannot do it due to budget cuts, but there will be a team of thirty people who will train and beat the Russians.”

Apparently Amit attempted to lower Ben-Gurion’s expectations.

“The Russians choose their team from 170 million.”

Ben-Gurion’s response?

“We have 11 million Jews and from that we produced Einstein, and they couldn’t produce an Einstein from 170 million…it all depends on the head…the mind controls the muscles.”

Golani soccer game, July 18, 1955 (Courtesy of IDF/Bmachane)

The conversation ended with Dayan asking Ben-Gurion how he had felt about the game: “Did you not enjoy the game?”

“It was exceptional. I went to see it because it was the IDF and the French army, otherwise I would not have given up two hours of my day for it,” says Ben-Gurion.

“What’s the difference between this and going to see a movie?” asked  Shimon Peres.

“I don’t do that either,” responded Ben-Gurion.

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