Palestinian flag sparks tension during Israel’s U-20 World Cup loss to Colombia

Colombian fans wave banner after team scores goal in win, leading Israel backers to shout, ‘This is not politics, this is soccer’; police break up altercation

A fan waves a Palestinian flag in the stands of a U-20 World Cup match between Israel and Columbia on May 21, 2023. (Screen capture/Twitter)
A fan waves a Palestinian flag in the stands of a U-20 World Cup match between Israel and Columbia on May 21, 2023. (Screen capture/Twitter)

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Around 4,000 Jewish Argentines showed up to cheer on Israel at their first appearance in a FIFA World Cup tournament in over 50 years, at times chanting songs in Spanish. But their festive mood changed after a Palestinian flag surfaced in the crowd — and after the Israeli team lost narrowly in the final minutes to Colombia.

On Sunday, Israel lost 2-1 in the first match of the first round of the U-20 World Cup, which features the world’s best soccer talent under 20 years old. When Colombia scored its first goal, in the second half of the game — after a first half that was dominated by Israel — supporters in a Colombian fan section raised a Palestinian flag.

Almost immediately, nearby Israel supporters in the stands began shouting at the flag bearer, saying “This is not politics, this is soccer.” Police eventually intervened and expelled the Palestinian flag holders.

Some Israeli fans followed them on their way out of the stadium in La Plata, in Buenos Aires province.

Israel last appeared in the general World Cup in 1970 and scored one goal in a game against Sweden. In the 56th minute of Sunday’s game, Dor Turgeman scored for Israel on a penalty kick.

Colombia answered with a penalty kick score and another goal at the very end of the game.

Nevertheless, the Israel Football Association thanked the “over 4,000 fans” who showed up to support the Israeli squad. The team next plays Senegal on Wednesday and Japan on Saturday; the two teams with the best results from the initial group stage will move on to the next round next week.

Former host country Indonesia had objected to Israel’s participation, arguing that it had agreed to host the tournament before knowing that Israel would qualify. In response, FIFA, the global soccer organization that runs the World Cup and its accompanying tournaments, stripped Indonesia of its hosting rights in March and moved the tournament to Argentina — a country home to over 200,000 Jews.

“We came here to win the trophy,” Israeli midfielder El Yam Kancepolsky told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: [email protected]
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.