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Folks in Jerusalem complain about having to pay to watch on Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded south of Beirut last night, wounding at least five soccer fans.
JERUSALEM — Where did you watch the US vs. Portugal game? On ESPN? Live-streamed on your computer?
If you live in Jerusalem or the West Bank, you might have watched it on Al Jazeera. But if you did, chances are you weren't happy about it.
Al Jazeera's scheme for the 2014 World Cup has Jerusalemites and West Bankers complaining. You have to buy a $350 receiver in order to watch the matches, and Al Jazeera is the only Arab-language TV broadcasting the cup locally.
This, plus a year-long subscription to Al Jazeera Sports, is what you get for your $350:
Al Jazeera receiver for the World Cup. (Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost)
Everyone, it seems, has something to say about Al Jazeera.
"I didn't pay the money," said Fadi Abu Rawz, sitting at a Damascus Gate cafe in East Jerusalem. "It's too expensive."
"I can't pay a fee like that," said Muhammad Ansarii, also at the cafe. "That's why I come here."
Muhammad's friend Moaz Dabbad laughed. "No way! 1,200 shekels?"
Ghassan Khatib, a professor of Arab studies at Bir Zeit University and former director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, says all the polls show Al Jazeera "by far and always No. 1 for news" in Palestinian TV market share.
As a result, "I hear frustration. People have to buy a subscription or go to one of the coffee shops and pay in return for watching."
Coffee shops have become new Al Jazeera clients, despite the fact that they don't broadcast sports when there is no World Cup.
Muhammad Kastrow, the owner of a Damascus Gate coffee shop, says he had no choice but to purchase one of the receivers.
"It’s the only way," he said. "If I got it via internet its an unreliable stream."
Muhammad Kastrow. (Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost)
In East Jerusalem, home to many Arabs, not one Iran fan could be found watching the Argentina vs. Iran game on Saturday night. Everyone at the coffee shops, it seemed, was rooting for Argentina's Lionel Messi — who, at the very last minute, delivered.
Messi fans. (Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost)
A mile away, other Jerusalem Arabs join Jewish soccer fans to watch the games in West Jerusalem.
Israel Channel 1 is showing the World Cup for free. It doesn't hurt that in predominantly Jewish West Jerusalem, you can buy beer.
Seven screens on one city block in Jerusalem. (Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost)
Jerusalemites aren't the only Arabs getting their sports commentary in Hebrew.
Lebanese are similarly frustrated by Qatari cable TV fees. Many have also turned to Israel's Channel 1.
"Israeli commentators' voices in Hebrew can be heard everywhere in south Lebanon; in people's houses, balconies and courtyards because the country has failed to allocate money to enable them to watch the games," Lebanese news outlet Al-Nahar reports.
Some soccer fans face worse challenges than high cable fees.
A car bomb exploded south of Beirut early Tuesday, wounding at least five people who had gathered to watch the World Cup.
Most of the wounded in Beirut were people watching the Brazil-Cameroon game at Abu Assaf, a nearby popular cafe about 30m from the bomb.
— Kareem Shaheen (@kshaheen) June 24, 2014
The Kenyan government urged fans to watch the games at home after a series of terrorist attacks on the coast killed 60 people in two days, among them sports fans. Another attack on the coast killed at least five people overnight Monday.
Hoping to prevent such attacks on their soil, Nigerian authorities went ahead and simply shut down all public venues planning to screen the World Cup.
Given these sad realities worldwide, you may feel a bit guilty about watching the US vs. Portugal game at your aunt's house Sunday night. Don't. CNN says it's OK.