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January 23, 2004 - Image 23

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Futbol Phobia

Racism has become a major problem
in Israeli soccer.

DINA KRAFT

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Tel Aviv

C

reached European levels, but it is very
much part of the culture of the game —
something public organizations and
team officials are trying to change.
Beginning last season, the New Israel
Fund racism index has been giving sup-
porters of each team a weekly grade.
Volunteers monitor the crowds and
record the number of racist songs, slo-
gans and incidents they observe. The
results, ranking the most- and least-tol-
erant teams, are published weekly in the
media and have caused a stir among soc-
cer fans.
Overall, racial incidents are down at

hanting "Death to the Arabs,"
hundreds of young Jewish
soccer fans race up a dusty
side street to catch a bus car-
rying fans of the Arab team that had just
beaten theirs in a tense game. The sup-
porters jeer even after the bus pulls away.
Moments earlier, an Arab fan had
been hit in the head with a rock, blood-
ying his forehead.
Welcome to professional soccer in
Israel, where racism
and violence have
become part of the
country's most popu-
lar sport. Before
Monday's match, the
home team, Bnei
Yehuda of Tel Aviv's
working-class
Hatikva neighbor-
hood, was awarded a
plaque for being
Israel's most tolerant
and sportsmanlike
team by the New
Israel Fund, which
has been tracking
soccer fan behavior
in a new racism
index.
"Today they
Israeli soccer teams Hapoel Tel Aviv and Betar Jerusalem
received a prize, but
were in the State Cup final in 2000.
then because they lose
soccer matches this season, but ongoing
a game this happens," said Nur
Ghentos, manager of the victorious Arab Israeli-Palestinian violence exacerbates
soccer violence, said Yair Gaily, a sports
team, Bnei Sakhnin, as he watched
sociologist and head of mass media and
medics bandage the head of the fan hit
sports studies at the Zinman College of
by a rock. "It looks like when you are
Israel's 'Wingate Institute.
winning you can be tolerant, but when
Soccer "is a very interesting and
you lose this is the result. This is the
authentic reflection of society. We have a
story of soccer in Israel."
violent society relative to other places in
Before this season, Bnei Yehuda fans
world, and we can see it in the soccer
had a reputation for being rowdy and
racist. The team had been leading Israel's violence," Galily said. "Because it comes
out in the context of soccer it is legit-
top league until Monday's loss — and
imized, as if it's OK to get these things
for some Jewish fans, losing to an Arab
out as a catharsis."
team is the ultimate insult.
The tolerance lacking in the stands
Immediately after the game, fans for
can be found on the field when Jews
the most part were restrained, even
and Arabs often play on the same team.
applauding briefly for the rival team.
"On the soccer field is one of the only
New Israel Fund officials noted that the
jobs where you see Arabs and Jews
problems began, as they often do, out-
side the stadium.
PHOBIA on page 24
Soccer hooliganism in Israel has not

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