CHAMPIONS - Social networks try obligatory charity

Viral fakes aim to oblige footballers to devolve World Cup prizes in favour of Gaza victims.

The starting whistle: on 12 June 2014, just as Brazil was kicking off the Football World Cup against Croatia in the Sao Paolo stadium, three Israeli youngsters disappeared from Gush Etzion, an Israeli settlement near Hebron, on the West Bank. The Brazilians scored three goals to clinch a victory that kindled the country’s trophy hopes, while the latest Israel-Palestine conflict was erupting almost 7,000 miles [11,000 km] away.

Two players, Mesut Özil, the Turkish born midfielder playing for Germany under Joachim Loew, and Islam Slimani, a striker in the Algerian team that did Africa proud in Brazil, ended up being entangled in the two top news stories in the summer of 2014. Both Muslims, they had to deal with the start of Ramadan and the usual onslaught of propaganda. News travels fast between the web and the press: Özil and Slimani (along with all his fellow players) were going to donate their FIFA prize money to the population of Gaza. The news quickly spread through the Gaza Strip and went viral on the internet.

Özil, a star of the German team and the UK club Arsenal, had apparently pledged 600 thousand dollars to the Palestinian cause. But had he? Angela Merkel had lifted the World Cup to the heavens and Özil was already on holiday when his agent told the AP news agency: “The claim that Mezut donated money to Gaza is not true. Maybe in the future, who knows?” he added ambiguously.

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