Local Jewish soccer medalist explains why she is rooting for the Dutch

Sarina Dayan (at left) celebrates the U.S. junior girls soccer team’s gold-winning victory over Israel. 

By Seth Eisenkramer, Jewish Light Staff

For 2013 Maccabiah Games gold medalist Sarina Dayan, soccer is more than just fun way to spend afternoons; the Kirkwood High School varsity player views soccer as a chance for two teams to go onto the field and express their skill and passion for the game.

Since Israel – her father’s home country and her favorite country — did not qualify for the tournament, Sarina has adopted the Netherlands as the team she is rooting for. While the young athlete understand that one player’s bigoted views do not represent an entire country, she recognizes the need to acknowledge prejudice.

“If a player is an anti-Semite, it would be difficult to support them,” Sarina said.  “I have had to deal with criticism all my life for being Jewish, and I will not support someone who is so unaccepting and hateful towards people just because they believe in different things.” 

On the opposite side of the equation, Jewish fans must also recognize players who have promoted Jewish beliefs. Lionel Messi — whose home country of Argentina boasts a 24 percent ADL score — visited the Western Wall in 2013 to promote peace in the Middle East.


Sarina makes note of this reality, saying its important to separate player and country.

“It isn’t that country’s fault that that person is hateful; it is the players problem,” Sarina said. “It depends on how good the team is and how public that player is about his/her anti-Semitism.”

Karen Aroesty, Regional Director for the Missouri/S. Illinois chapter of the ADL, believes that fans have the capacity to overcome bias. “Fans have the ability to cross boundaries,”Aroesty said. “The World Cup should be about watching great athletes play this beautiful sport, and whether they are from a different country or different religion is not an issue.”

Aroesty stresses that fans of Israel should not blame anti-Semitism for the country’s World Cup absence, as the country simply failed to advance in a qualification group that also included Portugal and Russia.

Overall, Sarina believes that soccer boils down to what happens on the field. “[The World Cup] has to do with passion and skill, and that’s how I choose the team I would like to win,” she said.