GOAL DREAMS (Maya Sanbar, Jeffrey Saunders, 2006)

Rejecting partition as set forth by the United Nations at the inception of the modern state of Israel, and rebuffing every Israeli offer of peaceful co-existence since (1967, 1973, 1998, 2000), Palestinians are without a place to call home. This circumstance claims collateral damage. It may seem among the least of their woes that Palestinians thus have no home base for an internationally competing sports team. When it came to the world’s most popular sport (what a few call soccer), however, Palestinians had to find a way. Proceeding on the basis of nationality rather than nation, a Palestinian National Football Team was created, its players culled from many countries, including Syria, Egypt, Chile, the United States. The documentary Goal Dreams follows the motley team as they prepare for a decisive qualification match (against Uzbekistan) for the 2006 World Cup competition. It is a poignant film, not least of all because it’s haunted by the possibility of a nation that Palestinians, misled by leaders intoxicated by their own power and by contagious irrational hatred, have all but abdicated.
     The head coach speaks in English that’s translated into Arabic and Spanish. The U.S. team member, who grew up wholly accepted in a Jewish community (every one of his friends was Jewish), remarks with a chuckle how rarely, apparently, the translations are accurate! He loves America; he loves Palestine. His pride in wearing a jersey that says “Palestine” is irresistible—dignified, vulnerable, Quixotic. He is one of four players on whom the film focuses.
     A “sports film,” after all, Goal Dreams relaxes into some pleasantly formulaic stuff; but the condition of Palestinian nationlessness deepens the material.
     ”Wherever our national team goes,” a sponsor says, “our hearts run after.”
     Co-director Maya Sanbar’s heritage is Palestinian and Lebanese.


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