Although soccer’s popularity seems to be on the rise in the U.S., this year’s edition of the World Cup might be somewhat of a downer for American Jews who enjoy watching the sport. The U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the quadrennial tournament for the first time since 1986, and there are practically no Jews involved in the games this time around.
Still, there are plenty of Jewish storylines surrounding the international event, which is being held in Russia and starts on Thursday. Read on to catch up before the games begin.
Colombia has a Jewish coach.
The announcer who made “¡GOOOOOOOAL!” famous is Jewish.
While Andrés Cantor, an Argentine Jew who grew up in America, didn’t invent the ridiculously long call for a score, he certainly popularized it. (The call, as you can hear in the video above, is oddly reminiscent of a long blow on the shofar.) This World Cup will be Cantor’s ninth as a commentator, and he will serve as the lead announcer for the Spanish-speaking Telemundo network. Cantor’s Romanian and Polish grandparents fled Europe during World War II. At this World Cup, Cantor will be joined by his 24-year-old son Nico, also a sportscaster and sports journalist. Nico told The Washington Post last week: “I try to find my own voice. I have been working my own things.”
Israel didn’t qualify, but you can still root for two Israel-based players.
A famous Jewish player-turned-commentator will be on the Telemundo team.
Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate will be turned into a soccer goal during the semifinals.
There’s an app for Jewish tourists visiting Russia.
The app, called “soccer-hay,” will have a guide to synagogues, local rabbis and where to find kosher food. It is available for iOS and Android. Additionally, according to Chabad.org, the Jewish Community Center of Moscow will host a multilingual information desk daily. It’s hard to estimate how many Jewish tourists will attend the tournament, but the International Sports Travel Agencies Association says that 10,000 Israelis will make the trip.
Israel wants to show the World Cup on TV for free in the Arab world.