Has being locked down between the screens created a new sense of sportsmanship amidst the MENA region? Since worldwide lockdown and sports cancellations, chess sites across the internet have seen a 50% increase in usage and games played over the past six weeks.
One specific online chess tournament sparked a sense of hope, and caught the eyes of its onlookers, as 65 players from about 10 countries competed. During the tournament, two unlikely teams dueled against one another, one full of Israelis and one full of Arabs. The Arab team included players from Syria, Tunisia, and Algeria. Other players in the tournament were from Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco.
Many of these countries typically choose to boycott Israel. Across various athletic competitions, there seems to be a discriminatory sense of sportsmanship when it comes to Israel, as many Arabic authorities put pressure on their players to avoid competing with Israel.
However, if even one game can bring a sense of calm and connection amidst the corona conflict, perhaps it is also an invitation to imagine what can happen with more opportunities to simply play together.