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Justice plays out in the Israeli soccer Premier League

The league’s most racist team is in deep trouble, and two of the league’s top scorers are Arab. What more could a guy ask for?

Teddy stadium, where Beitar Jerusalem plays (photo: flickr / Matthew Wilkinson)

Something very cool is happening in the Israeli Premier League.

First of all, two of the league’s top scorers are Arab. As of today, Ahmed Saba, who plays for Maccabi Netanya, is leading the league with 15 goals. Wiam Amashe, who plays for Maccabi Haifa, is tied for second place with 13 goals together with Toto Tamuz and Omer Damari.

As Yoav Borovitz of Haaretz wrote [Heb] a few weeks ago, the last time an Arab won the title of top scorer was in the 1987-88 season, when the legendary Zahi Armeli scored 25 goals for Maccabi Haifa. Back then, there were only two Arabs playing in the top league. Today there are 50.

I was a teenager in those days, growing up in Haifa. And I clearly remember the hype around Armeli. You have to remember, these were the days of the first Intifada, and in Haifa – Jewish kids were playing soccer with Zahi’s #13 Maccabi Haifa shirt with pride. He was king back then.

The only other Arab player to reach those legendary heights in the league was Rifat (Jimmy) Turk, who used to play for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the 70’s and 80’s. Since then there have been a few stars, such as Walid Badir and Abbas Suan, but none seem to have had the glory that Turk and Armeli did.

This one’s in Hebrew, sorry.

Despite his success on the field, Amashe is most probably having some difficulty with what’s going on outside the pitch. He’s from the Druze village of Bukata in the Golan Heights, a village that is very supportive of the Syrian regime. As Borovitz noted, his family still has a portrait of Hafez al-Assad in their living room.

Yet, what should probably make any liberal minded person gloat these days is the trouble that Beitar Jerusalem is going through. Once an empire, with many trophies, Beitar Jerusalem today is just two points above the bottom red line, and if things keep going this way they could (God help us) be relegated to the second league.

What hasn’t been said about the Beitar fans? Racist slurs galore are heard in the stands, and even Kahane flags are waved every now and again. I find them disgusting, and couldn’t be happier.

The match last Saturday was too good to be true. They lost 3-0 (at home!!!) to their rivals (more like enemies) from the north, the Arab team of Bnei-Sachnin. Talk about being humbled. In fact, it was too humbling, apparently. The Beitar fans started rioting and injuring Sachnin fans. Today [Heb] the team was fined 10,000 shekels for it behavior. To be “fair”, apparently the Sakhnin fans were acting up themselves during the national anthem. You poke Beitar fans like that, you’re bound to get some action.

And last night, they were kicked out of the State Cup, by a small team called Bnei Lod. The Lod chairman, Abu Subhi (yup…), summed it up for me quite well, in Haaretz today:

Subhi, much criticized by Naim (the Beitar coach – A.K) for his pre-game remarks, felt he was on roll. “I hope Yuval Naim gets the sack, the sooner the better,” he said gleefully after the final penalty, “and I hope Beitar is relegated at the end of the season.” It wouldn’t be wise to bet against both prophecies.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Jazzy

      In an ideal world, politics and ethnic conflict would not be so prevalent in Israeli football. Unfortunately they are. But gloating over the idea that by succeeding, Arab players are rubbing dirt in the faces of Beitar racists doesn’t show very much respect for those players, who probably don’t share your extremely petty sense of “justice”, and probably would rather just rise above the realm of schoolyard vendettas.

      Reply to Comment
    2. In an ideal world, “Jazzy” commentators wouldn’t be allowed to spew petty comments like yours and feel like the blogger actually gives a hoot about what you think. Or in other words, it’s my blog post and I’ll gloat if I want to, gloat if I want to, gloat if I want to, you would gloat too if the racists lost too. Pam-pam-pam-pam-pam!
      .
      Btw, if you read a bit more carefully (you can read, can’t you?) no where in this post did I say that the Arab top scorers are rubbing dirt in the faces of anyone. No where. I just think it’s a cool fact to point out. Can you live with that, Jazzy boy/girl or whatever anonymous nick you chose?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Dregen Jelencovich

      You’re not the only one gloatin’, Ami, this brought a smile to my face.

      Today’s already been a good day, this just makes it so much better.

      Thank you, sir. Have a great Thursday.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jazzy

      The Arab players aren’t rubbing dirt in anyone’s face – you are. If you read my comment (you can read, can’t you?) you’d see that I believe the Arab players to be above your pettiness. Being famous athletes, I don’t think they give a hoot about why their success gives you satisfaction, and would probably be embarrassed to talk to you if you met them personally and explained your views as expressed in this piece.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jazzy

      Maybe instead of showing zero tolerance for alternate viewpoints and pretending that anyone who doesn’t share your extremely lame attitude is personally attacking you, you should try to properly understand and address the substance of what I’ve said, like Noam and Larry and other people who take +972 seriously.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Passerby

      You wrote that this is the league’s most racist team which presumes that other teams are also racist. But then you mention there being 50 Arab players in the league. Is that in proportion to their numbers in Israel’s population? Does someone not get to play professionally because they are Arabs?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Carl

      ‘Passerby’:
      .

      .
      50 isn’t a proportion.
      .
      It’s a number.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Passerby

      50 is a number and it’s relative to the total number of players in the league. If there are 20% Arab Israelis in the general population and there are more than 250 players in the premiere league, then the total of 50 Arab players is in disproportion to their percentage of the population. Hope that clarifies what I meant.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Yo' Mamma

      Christmas/Hanukkah/Eid must have come early for Mr. Subhi. Yuval Naim, about 1 hour ago, was just axed as the coach for Beitar Jerusalem.

      1 prophecy down, 1 to go.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Oh, Jazzy, what’s the matter? You don’t like it when you get a taste of your own arrogance? Welcome to the Half and Half channel! Where Kaufman has no tolerance for people who think they’re God.
      .
      So, maybe instead of showing zero tolerance for someone bashing your “comments”, you get a little tougher if you wanna stick around.
      .
      And if you want to keep thinking you’re clairvoyant and know what Arab players think about my blog, be my guest. Just makes you sound even more like a clown.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Rachel

      I have to say, I also find this article a bit silly to be honest. Yes, racism is wrong. And yes, I get that you as a fan will be happy when your team is doing well and other teams aren’t. But its hardly as if Beitar Jerusalem are failing due to their racism, its more that right now, the group of players are failing to manoeuvre a ball into a place on a field as well as certain other groups of players.

      I would point to the New Israel Fund’s Jerusalem United campaign as something to genuinely celebrate about football:
      http://www.nif.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=162

      Reply to Comment
    12. @rachel – could you point me to the sentence in this post where I say that Beitar is failing DUE to their racism? I’m trying really hard to find it.
      .
      And, if you call my post silly, can I call your comment ridiculously clueless? Just seems fair…

      Reply to Comment
    13. Rachel

      @Ami No, I know you didn’t say that. But 972 is a political blog, not a ‘random things that I’m happy about right now’ blog. And yeah, you can say whatever you like but as a journalist I would have hoped you would be able to take constructive criticism rather than just slinging back random remarks at readers who disagree.

      Reply to Comment
    14. @rachel – i suggest you learn first what “constructive criticism” really is before slinging yourself words like “silly” and other “random remarks”. “Practice what you preach” comes to mind…
      .
      Also, +972 is not only politics. And you obviously are new to my channel, where I write on various topics. In fact, I’ve written many “random things I’m happy about” on my blog. even daddy-blogging occasionally. Please don’t rush to hasty conclusions. We don’t like that on +972 :)
      .
      I suppose you’re one of those who is a bit taken aback, like Jazzy above, when a blogger hits back. I welcome you as well, to Half & Half. If you can take the heat, be my guest. If not, feel free to check out our other excellent bloggers.

      Reply to Comment

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