The first night of Clipped football forum presented the films “Coach Zoran and his African Tigers” followed by “Goal Dreams”. Both films delivered an insight into how football can be a tool for expressing their right to nationhood. Both featured a European protagonist as coach, trying to unite ethnically and culturally divided teams in an attempt to instill a sense of national pride and identity. The directors of the films used football and the experiences of foreign coaches operating within limited contexts in order to present the intricacies and cultural nuances of two vey significant cultural movements. The first film was a moving story about the birth of a nation following 50 years of war and conflict. Seen through the eyes of an outsider, who, through his experience in Serbia, understood the importance of football’s role in nation building, and attempted to apply it to the youngest nation in the world.
Goal Dreams, a film about Palestinian resistance gave great insight into the importance of sport in establishing identity and solidarity throughout this stateless nation. The film, shot in 2006, and the following Q&A showed how the challenges that Palestinians face on a daily basis, even encroaches on the livelihood of the national team. In the film, over half the team was held in Gaza till just 10 days before their WC qualifying match. To make matters worse, the team fell apart as a result of cultural differences amongst the players leading to divisions within the locker room.
Palestinian footballer, Mahmoud Sarsak gave us some interesting reflections into the cause of this, noting that as territories are occupied, or as the freedom of movement becomes more difficult throughout Palestine, different identities have begun to form themselves. Palestinians in Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, Chile, and even to the United States all made up the national squad together, but their divisions were representative of emergent Palestinian cultures following the Israeli occupation.
In light of recent events, following the Palestine’s victory in the 2014 AFC Championships, and the current bombings between Israel and Gaza over the last week, it was particularly interesting to learn how Israel has continued to attack Palestinian sporting facilities. Four football pitches have been bombed over the last 5 days, and in the last couple of months, two football players were shot in the legs by the Israeli military. These blatant attacks of Palestinian football culture only serve to demonstrate the power of sport to make us feel united. As we learned tonight by speaking with the panelists as well as other guests, football is truly a uniting force and thus it is often viewed as a threat by those who would seek to divide.