Palestine was not one of the thirty-two countries whose national soccer teams competed in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, in the thirty-two days of competition, talk of Palestine was prominent on two scores:
First, as the tournament progressed, Algeria’s team upset expectations by playing well in the group stage and qualifying for the knockout round. In doing so, they won the allegiance of many soccer fans across the Arab world, including Palestinians. The Algerian team embraced its new supporters and, following an unsurprising loss to the tournament’s eventual champion, Germany, it adorned the team bus with at least one Palestinian flag during a homecoming parade through the streets of Algiers on 2 July. In addition, on the same day, Algerian team striker Islam Slimani was allegedly quoted as saying the team would donate its prize money, an estimated $9 million, to the people of Gaza. Though proved false within days, this reported expression of solidarity garnered extensive coverage in the international press and was praised by Palestinians and others all over the world.
Second, Coca-Cola, one of theWorldCup’s primary sponsors, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in an advertising campaign launched in conjunction with the tournament. One of the premier ads of the campaign featured sentimental vignettes about Coca-Cola representatives traveling around the world offering soda to young soccer players from disadvantaged backgrounds and a chance to fly to Brazil and attend the tournament. In addition to segments set in an isolated community in the Amazon rainforest and a tsunami-affected area of Otsuchi, Japan, the ad included a story about two Palestinian girls named Ahlam and Dalal who spoke about playing soccer in Ramallah. The ads proved controversial, with detractors criticizing the company for describing Ramallah as a “forgotten” city in some of its marketing materials and for contributing to widely held stereotypes about conservatism in Palestinian society.
A video of the Coca-Cola ad and a picture of the Algerian soccer team’s bus are presented below.