From Haaretz: “Ghana Football Association apologizes for Israeli flag at World Cup match”
Ghana’s Football Association apologized Monday after Hapoel Tel Aviv defender John Paintsil pulled out an Israeli flag during celebrations over Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
“It was an action out of naivete, and we apologize to anyone who was offended. It will never happen again,” Ghana FA spokesman Randy Abbey said.
“He was obviously unaware of the implications of what he did … He’s extremely popular in Israel, and he wanted to thank the fans who traveled to see him play.”
Abbey said that there had been complaints to the Ghana FA but did not elaborate.
“We’re not here for politics,” he said. “We don’t support Israel or Arab nations … It was unfortunate that the player was ignorant about the political situation.”
Abbey added: “But he has apologized to us and I think the matter should end there.”
Sports Minister Ophir Pines-Paz had been quoted as praising Paintsil for his actions and saying that Ghana had gained many Israeli fans.
“We have an Israeli at the World Cup. Paintsil’s gesture has warmed our hearts and many Israelis have now become supporters of Ghana,” Paz said.
But the gesture drew furious reactions in the Arab press.
More on those “furious reactions” from AFP: “Fury in Egypt over Ghana’s Israeli flag waver”
“The ignorant and stupid Paintsil, who spent 20 days in Egypt during the last African Nations Cup, plays for Hapoel,” sports commentator Alaa Sadek wrote in the daily Al-Akhbar, explaining to baffled Egyptian audiences Painstil’s link to Israel.
“Egyptians supported the Ghanaian team all the way until the 82nd minute, and regretted it after the Israeli flag (waving),” screamed a bold red headline in the independent daily Al-Masry al-Yom Monday.
And now for the obligatory conspiracy theories:
… Some papers described Paintsil as a “Mossad agent”, others said “an Israeli had paid him to do it” but the most elaborate theory was offered by the top-selling state-owned daily Al-Ahram.
“The real reason,” sports analyst Hassan el-Mestekawi wrote, stems from the fact that many Ghanaian players go through football training camps set up by an Israeli coach who “discovered the treasure of African talent, and abused the poverty of the
continent’s children” with the ultimate goal of selling them off to European clubs.
“The training program for these children starts every morning with a salute to the Israeli flag,” Mestekawi claimed.