Israel’s top politicians will be rooting against Argentina, which canceled a match with the Israeli team, and for Argentina’s rival Brazil, according to a telephone poll of soccer enthusiasts across the Israeli political spectrum ahead of the start of the World Cup on Thursday.
But there is one team that Israelis will especially be united against.
“Everyone has to be against Iran,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said. “I was originally in favor of Argentina, but because they canceled, I am backing England. We love the British league and Liverpool in particular. Their fans have soul.”
Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) said he was supporting Brazil “because they provide the best opposition to Argentina,” and also because of their professionalism and their current and past stars.
Shaked’s party colleague, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, said he was backing Brazil because he has supported them since he was a child, and not due to the rivalry with Argentina. He said he was “of course against Iran, because they hate Israel.”
Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-Right Otzma Le’Israel party said he was praying for Argentina to lose every game and would even cheer for Saudi Arabia if they played against them.
By contrast, Meretz MK Mossy Raz said he was supporting the Egyptian team, because they have a peace agreement with Israel.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said he was “obviously against Iran” and is backing Brazil because their players have played beautifully and creatively since the legendary Pele.
“As long as Israel isn’t in the World Cup, I will support Brazil, which plays the nicest soccer,” Lapid’s party colleague, MK Yoel Rozbozov, said. “I advise Israelis to support the most attractive and interesting teams and to oppose teams whose countries do not recognize Israel’s existence.”
Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi said he backed France because it had a multicultural team and he loved the leadership of former star player Zinedine Zidane, who is of Algerian descent.
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg, whose brother is a professional soccer player, said she backed Belgium because it is an energetic, hard-working underdog like Meretz, and predicted it would be the surprise team of the tournament.
“I’m always rooting for Holland and England,” said Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli. “Holland historically because of former star player Johan Cruyff, and England because the Premiere League is amazing. And France because of liberté, égalité, fraternité, [which] are expressed well in the tri-color team.”
Michaeli said she was “against no one, because sports are beautiful and positive.”
Former minister Gideon Sa’ar said he did not want to participate in the poll, saying “I don’t think sports and politics should mix.”