Assessing the World Cup’s contenders — and offenders

By Seth Eisenkramer, Jewish Light Staff

The 2014 World Cup provides a unique situation for Jewish fans of the sport. While basketball, football and hockey are not known for their surplus of Jews, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is not only without Israel in the competition, but almost fully devoid of Jewish players (U.S. player Kyle Beckerman is Jewish). 

Followers of Israeli and Jewish athletes in general must look towards other countries to pick a World Cup favorite. However, many sides in the tournament unfortunately carry present and past attitudes of anti-Semitism.  Favorites such as Germany have had its share of anti-Semitic events, while the underdog Greece has been publicly criticized for its anti-Semitic government.

The Anti-Defamation League recently released its “Global 100,” a survey that measures anti-Semitism in 100 countries around the world, based on the answers to 11 true-or-false questions. For example, one question asked if Jews have too much power in the business world while another asked if people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.

The lower the percentage of the ADL score, the more a particular country supported Jews. 


Contenders (as of press time)

Netherlands:  5 percent ADL Score; 12/1 odds

With an ADL score of only 5 percent, the Netherlands is the clear favorite for those rooting for a team whose country is compassionate toward the Jewish people. Losing the 2010 World Cup Final by only one goal has the Dutch sitting at 12/1 odds to win the tournament, making it the fourth best odds to capture the 2014 title. The Netherlands is a clear favorite for those who want the best mix of ethics and football.

• Brazil: 16 percent ADL Score; 3/1 odds 

Host country Brazil has the best odds to win the tournament, and a decent ADL score (compared to other countries in the tournament). The Brazilians finished second when they last hosted the World Cup in 1950. The country offers another option for those who do not want to root for the a European team. 


• Colombia: 41 percent ADL Score; 25/1 odds

Although Colombia shares a border with host nation Brazil, the similarities between the two stop there.  At 41 percent, Colombia has the highest ADL score of any remaining World Cup team in contention, although its odds are somewhere in the middle. However, newly appointed Jewish coach José Pékerman adds hope of more acceptance to Judaism in Colombia.

• Chile:37 percent ADL Score ; 18/1 odds

Shocking the world with a 2-0 defeat of former champion Spain, Chile has made it out of the group stages when most people gave the South American country very little chance to advance. While the Jewish population of Chile rose 8.8 percent from the 2002 to 2012 census, the anti-Semitic prejudice against Defense Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who is Jewish, overshadows the growth.

Wild cards:

• United States: 9 percent ADL Score, 100/1  odds

Home-country bias aside, the United States ranks among the lowest in the ADL study. While odds-makers may see it as a long shot, the country has managed to surpass expectations. Retired Jewish player Jeff Agoos holds the record for most international appearances by a U.S. player, and he even represented the United States as a teen in 1985 Maccabiah Games.  

• Nigeria: 16 percent ADL Score; 250/1 odds 

The African Cup of Nations Champions has the lowest odds of any African team remaining in the tournament, which means Nigeria is the perfect “Cinderella” story. The blending of Jewish and traditional beliefs of the Igbo people of Nigeria was captured in the award-winning film “Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria.”  Two team members play in the Israeli Premier League. 

ADL Source:;  World Cup Odds: