What happens when the soccer team that inspires all hope, doesn’t win the game?

After the Cup: Sons of Sakhin United

on May 25, 2010 by Tim Cogshell

The Israeli national football (a.k.a. soccer) league, also referred to as Bnei Sakhnin, is made up of teams from cities around Israel, just as one might expect. Only one of these teams is from a predominately Arab town, and thus composed predominately of Arabs, but also includes Jewish and foreign players. Arabs and Jews, Muslims and Christians and even a catholic Brazilian and a Keynan or two, all play on this team owned by an Arab and coached by a Jew. Bnei Sakhnin won the Israeli cup and the right to represent Israel in the European competition. This movie is not about any of that, indeed all of that is played out under the opening credits. This documentary, as its title says explicitly, is about everything that happened after this (ostensibly) transformative national experience. An experience that brought together these divergent, even antagonistic groups, to play under a single banner-and win. If all the football fans in the in the United States were to watch this movie it still wouldn't make much money at the box office, not because it's not a good movie, but because Americans think of something else when you say the word "football," and Americans who watch football don't think of the Arab-Israeli problem-at all.

Over a million Arabs, some Muslim and some Christians live in Israel. Thus they are citizens of a country that is an occupying (and some would say oppressive) force, over a people with whom they are ethnically and sometimes literally related. This Isreali-Arab minority is mostly powerless in the context of the greater Israel and treated not unlike most minorities pretty much everywhere in the world. For this little Arab town to have won the Israeli Cup was an empowering achievement for Arabs all over Israel and in the greater Middle East. For them to have done so with Jewish players and coaches was an achievement for those all over the world who hope for peace in the region. What happened the next year involved a set of challenges spiked with expectations that very likely could not have been met-and weren't.

Thus the central notion in After the Cup is not the obvious; we can all live and work together to our greater achievement no matter where we are from or who we are. Rather, the question here is-will we-even when we lose the football game? It's a much smarter and more interesting question.

The answer is not found in the film, but there are still Arabs and Jews and Muslims and Christians on the Bnei Sakhnin football team and sometimes-they still win.

Distributor: Variance Films
Director: Alexander H. Browne and Christopher Browne
Producers: Roger Bennett, Alexander H. Browne and Michael Cohen
Genre: Documentary
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 80 min.
Release date: May 21 NY, May 28 LA


Tags: Alexander H. Browne, Christopher Browne, Roger Bennett, Michael Cohen

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