Playing with the Boycott: Israel-South Africa Sports Ties in the Apartheid Era*

Itamar Dubinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alongside the successes of the international sports boycott against apartheid South Africa (1948-1994), numerous countries circumvented it, including Israel. An examination of the reasons that led Israeli sports institutions and athletes to evade the sports sanctions against the apartheid regime reveals that Israelis did not join the boycott because of professional, Zionist, and national interests. Particularly, South African Jews played a crucial role in connecting Israel to South Africa due to their wealthy status and Zionist sentiments. Jewish owners of sports clubs encouraged the migration of Israeli footballers to South Africa, South African Jews attracted Israelis for fund-raising purposes and to encourage immigration to Israel, and Israel nurtured sporting relations with South Africa to overcome its own growing international isolation. Israeli newspapers, Israel State Archives, memoirs, and academic scholarship on the sports links between Israel and apartheid South Africa provide a novel perspective regarding the wider historical links between the two countries. The examination of such connections between Israel and South Africa demonstrates that similar to the diplomatic sphere, economic and national interests played a more central role than moral considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-767
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Israel
  • South Africa
  • boycotts
  • football
  • newspapers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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