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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Only Cannavaro Could Bring Them Together

I was looking at the individual ballots tendered by National Team coaches and captains for the FIFA World Player of the Year. You can't vote for a fellow countryman. But the votes of two countries caught my immediate attention: Iran and Israel. Due to the fact they are alphabetically close to each other in the list.

Despite the animus between both countries, they agreed on one thing: Fabio Cannavaro as first choice. By both coaches and captains, respectively. In this prime example, the whole world really is united by a ball. Unfortunately, they can't resolve their differences on the soccer pitch because Iran refuses to play Israel. Which is why FIFA decided that Iran qualifies for the World Cup from Asia, and Israel from Europe. To avoid any potential match-ups where political and/or religious ideology would force them to compromise for two 90 minute games. As Bill Shankley of Liverpool used to say, "Football isn't about life and death. It's more important than that."

Ironically, former enemies Germany and England have no problems playing each other. Before the final of World Cup 1966, the following was published in the editorial section of the London Times. "We beat them twice at their national game, so why not once at ours?"

What will FIFA do if both countries qualify for the next World Cup? Perhaps, although it is highly unlikely, they are scheduled to play against each other? Inquisitive minds would like to know, Mr. Blatter. The scenario was almost a reality for 2006, but Israel failed to qualify at the last minute. They were in a group with France, Switzerland, and Ireland that seemed destined to create a surprise Israeli entry to Germany.

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