This evening will go into UEFA’s history books. Normally, I would have been at the Belgian SuperCup Final tonight between Champions AA Gent with Israeli Rami Gershon, taking on Cup winners Club Bruges featuring Lior Refaelov. But instead I was drawn to see Beitar Jerusalem and I didn’t regret a second of it. After this match we were not very far from figures that could match records in the Guinness Book of World Football.
First off let’s talk soccer. Jerusalem swallowed 4 goals in 47 minutes. Secondly, we had yellow and red cards galore. Perhaps tonight we saw a new card game being introduced! 7 yellow cards and 2 red ones for the Israeli side, for a European opener I couldn’t count many more! However, thirdly, the highest score came from the Beitar fans, if you can call them that anyways; there were five breaches of UEFA rules and regulations in one game alone: an absolute record!
The off the field action began Wednesday night, when Beitar supporters were harassed by the Charelroi faithful in the “Leffe” cafe as one of them was injured in the ensuing fight. Later on, a Charleroi fan was hurt with a knife by a visiting fan. Some supporters told me, as well as Beitar’s press officer, that some Charleroi fans did the Nazi greeting when they saw the club. Not a good start…
After just 90 seconds of game time, it was suddenly raining flares and firecrackers from within at least a perimeter of 25 meters from the Beitar section in the stadium, as “Mambourg”’ was literally set on fire. It was a very spectacular but not quite a beautiful sight to see.
Charleroi officials said that such actions could cost the club a fine of at least 100,000 Euros. And that only the beginning. At halftime trouble began brewing with some of the stewards and the police surrounding the Beitar supporters. Objects of various different sizes began flying again towards the pitch and for a finishing touch a big stone, bottle of water or coin hit the face of French goalie Penneteau of Charleroi, knocking him to the ground unconscious. After the match we all saw the bloody wound as the projectile was impressively well-aimed, and so will be the hefty fine that Beitar will receive from UEFA.
Charleroi officials were also very annoyed after the match as well since no one really wanted to cooperate in organizing the press conference. I had to beg Beitar Jerusalem coach Slobodan Drapic to speak to the assembled press after the match. I personally apologized as a Jew and as an Israeli for the behavior of the fans, stating clearly that Beitar has more then a half a million fans and 50 of the worst had come to Belgium. Thankfully my comments were very well received.
For the record, a security officer told me that in the playoffs last year there had been trouble with the infamous Standard Liege fans, six thousand of them! He stated that, ‘120 of your Jerusalem guys made more trouble than those 6000…’. It was very sad to report on the crazy actions which happened in the stands and maybe a war correspondent would have been a better choice.
We did still have a football match between twenty two men exhibiting swift and quick passing from both sides. At the 10 minute mark Charleroi was rewarded for their fine play as David Pollet the expensive two million Euro Anderlecht transfer, scored between two yellow defenders. Charleroi then fell asleep in their own 30 meters, when suddenly a Jerusalem attack came out of nowheres to even the score. Dovev Gabay saw the opening and lobbed in the ball for a 1-1 tie. The tribune may have been a disaster zone, but on the pitch things were ok, for at least the time being.
However, just prior to the halftime whistle, Eli Dasa put a high foot into a sprinting Charleroi midfielder and knocked him to the ground for a straight red card. On the ensuing play Charleroi hit the jackpot and made it 2-1 on a Neeskens Kebano goal. Kebano will leave the club next week and be sold for no less then 8 million Euros which will double the BNP of the club.
The second half explained why Belgian football is where it is, and why Israeli football is where it is. There were swathes of time where Beitar wasn’t able to touch the ball. Boris Kleiman the Beitar ‘keeper was weak, the defense disorganized, the midfielders outflanked and the strikers invisible. Very bravely an “officer and a gentleman” coach Slobodan Drapic tried to change the situation by substituting Lidor Cohen and Pablo da Lukas but Pollet again beat Kleiman, this time from point blank range.
But even down 3-1 there was still hope. Some players like Leroy Zahiri did their best, but it was too little too late. Down two goals you may be able to get back into the match but unfortunately you can’t get back two players.
Beitar collected a second red card after a superfluous tackle from Askling leaving Beitar with just 9 players, however Jerusalem was lucky that the referee had turned a blind eye on fouls by Nahmani and Freda as well as the situation could have been even worse. Fortunately or unfortunately English referee Lee Probert was a joke of an official for both sides, and the exuberant Charleroi fans saw Stevance finish any chance of a Beitar comeback against a very weak Israeli defense. The book was sealed but not completely, as the final degrading goal came in added time, again from the very talented Kebano. But unfortunately on this night, football was the side-story.
The main focus will be on the fans that caused oodles and oodles of trouble, the Beitar Ultras. However a bit later on it became clear that 50 to 60 French “Jewish Defense League” guys were also in on the action.
Regardless for owner Eli Tabib the cup is more than full and overflowing with issues as I heard from him verbatim, “I seriously reconsider my marriage with Beitar”. I am told that if he leaves the club before the league begins, Beitar will not pass the Israeli league budget control (it passed UEFA’s last week) and perhaps this evening will drop Beitar Jerusalem into the second Israeli league, Liga Leumit! So for Eli Tabib and all of us Israeli football fans a final tip: GET RID OF LA FAMILIA!