FIFAil: Israeli press has a field day
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Hebrew media review

FIFAil: Israeli press has a field day

Soccer’s governing body deals with mega-corruption scandal as Palestinians try to kick Israel off the pitch

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, after Swiss police detained top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation into corruption. (JTA/Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
The FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, after Swiss police detained top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation into corruption. (JTA/Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

FIFA, soccer’s governing body, is being rocked by a mass corruption scandal involving top officials and executives and threatening to inflict a long-lasting stain on the world of competitive sports at large. At the same time, the Palestinian Football Association, seemingly unfazed by the uber-crisis plaguing FIFA, has been mustering up all its might in order to forward a motion to expel Israel from the body, with a vote on the matter scheduled for Friday.

Israel’s two most read papers lead, unsurprisingly, with the developing soccer story, though each stresses a different aspect of the affair. “The concern: Qatar will pay for a vote against Israel,” Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline reads, perhaps attempting to link the motion against Israel with the alleged instances of widespread misconduct among FIFA officials. The daily goes on to explain that while Israeli officials do not assess that the Palestinians will succeed in passing the proposal, “one cannot count on integrity during the vote.”

Meanwhile, Israel Hayom in its front page hardly touches upon the possible implications of the FIFA scandal on the Israel vote, only dryly stating that the poll may be delayed. “The game is rigged,” the popular daily’s headline aptly announces. Writer Boaz Bismuth notes that the Americans have “caught FIFA in an offside,” thus supplying readers with the necessary soccer-term joke that they had no doubt been aching for.

Haaretz, high-brow as ever, only addresses the scandalous affair lower down its front page, leading instead with a report on a designated area for new Jewish settlement near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which had been purchased by a Swedish company and then sold to right wing activists.

Reporter Chaim Levinson says that a church compound along Route 60, close to the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Aroub, has been renovated in recent months by a Swedish body presenting itself as a Christian organization. While the body insists that the renovations have been undertaken with Christian pilgrims in mind, documents acquired by Levinson show that plans have been made to convert the compound into a Jewish settlement in the future.

Another big topic in Israel’s papers is the scorching heatwave which brought with it a series of brush fires across the country, as well as a strong desire among many to stay indoors and enjoy a glass of cool lemonade in front of an air conditioner blasting cold air.

Pictures of little children frolicking through sprinklers adorn the pages of all three papers, along with the occasional image of a shirtless man pouring a bottle of liquid over his body.

“Forty is the new thirty,” Israel Hayom quips, referring to the record-breaking temperatures (measured in Celsius degrees) in most of the country’s regions.

Back in Yedioth, we are presented with a report on Israel’s planned new seaports in Haifa and Ashdod and the subsequent strike scheduled at the existing ports by workers fearing for their jobs. In a surprise move, the workers shut down the ports yesterday and vowed not to return until assurances were made that the new seaports would not hurt their future employment opportunities.

Looking at the picture from a broader perspective, however, it seems like no surprise that the strike was called on the day Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz was set to take part in a ceremony to mark the start of development at the new Ashdod port, the paper’s reporters keenly observe.

In Israel Hayom, a headline informs us that two days after Antitrust Authority Commissioner David Gilo announced his resignation amid an ongoing intra-governmental dispute over opening Israel’s natural gas market to increased competition, an Israeli company announced it had found traces of oil reserves in the Golan Heights.

The paper notes, however, that the traces do not necessarily indicate that liquid oil wells do in fact exist in the region.

Finally, Yedioth records the bizarre story of IDF soldiers caught dancing to the tune of Nadav Guedj’s Eurovision hit “Golden Boy,” and their arrest and punishment by authorities for the deed. The troops, who jigged and span to the beat while wearing full combat gear and carrying their guns, were sentenced to 21 days of detention after a video of their dance was uploaded to the internet, going viral in only a matter of hours.

Guedj, on his part, has vowed to help slightly ease the soldiers’ punishment, saying he would send them Golden Boy T-shirts. Seems like a sweet deal.

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