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Yitzhak Rabin, Tel Aviv Derby Violence And Israel

I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out. That’s an age old adage that can unfortunately describe the events of last’ nights Tel Aviv Derby. Football Israel suffered a big black eye from the actions that took place between Maccabi & Hapoel at Bloomfield Stadium.

At first look there are a number of places to lay the blame for the utter chaos and disgrace that plagued one of the hotly contested matches of the year. From a Hapoel Tel Aviv shirtless hoodlum going onto the field of play to attack Maccabi Tel Aviv and former Reds player Eran Zahavi, to the referee Roie Reinschreiber issuing a red card to Zahavi for protecting himself to the lack of responsible security staff. However, we must look at the core of the problem to understand why this nonsense has to contaminate the sports landscape.
Sure all the happenings mentioned above contributed to the ultimate end of the match but unfortunately we live in a society that accepts violence as a norm and not as an exception. But where does that come from and why? Unfortunately we don’t need to look to far…

It certainly could be from the lack of discipline taught to children from an early age, be it at home or at school. It could be the continuous lack of harsh punishments handed out, or it could be that respect is a word that once existed in the Israeli lexicon but not anymore.

The Tel Aviv Derby is always one of the match’s that is circled on every fans calendar. It’s one of the must go to games, where the two sides can express their support for either Maccabi or Hapoel. During thick or thin, good years and bad, the usual football match rules are chucked out the window as any one of the two sides can take the Derby and bragging rights until the next one arrives.

It was clear from the outset that Hapoel who hosted this Derby would have to have plenty of security, and they did with over 600 security personnel costing upwards of 300K NIS. But it was clear early on that security were too busy watching the match and the unfortunate goings on and not the supporter’s camps to ensure a safe sports experience that would be enjoyed by all fans.

The referee Roie Reinschreiber, a good one but by no means the best available was in charge of the match and seemed to lose the players early on by not putting down a heavier foot on fouls and cautions. Hapoel Tel Aviv opened the scoring on a nice goal by Moshe Ohayon and then Eran Zahavi tied it up on a 22nd minute penalty.

After the goal, Zahavi made his usual shooting celebration towards the Hapoel Tel Aviv fans and was issued a yellow card. Ten more minutes went by until Zahavi was going to take a corner kick, but before he could get there a bare chested Hapoel fan ran onto the pitch and attacked Zahavi forcing the star player to defend himself. It took more than 10 seconds for security to wake up and tackle the guy even though they were just a few feet away, as seen in the accompanying video above.

The result was a red card to Zahavi which fueled the now irate Maccabi fans, players and coaching staff as Jordi Cryuff, Maccabi’s technical director as well as Eyal Berkovic, the former Premier League star playing a similar role for Hapoel discussed what should be done.

After a lengthy delay it was decided that the match would continue on in what was a disastrous decision.

And the rest they say is history. After a hard Tal Ben Haim foul and subsequent yellow card a number of Maccabi fans ran across the pitch in an attempt to get to the Hapoel side and were almost successful (!) as security again fell asleep at the wheel. Bottles and garbage came flying out of the Hapoel Tel Aviv sections 4 & 5 as the players left the field to yelling, screaming and a total lack of control.

Which sadly represents society in the larger picture.

Since last evening every Tom, Dick & Harry politician in Israel is commenting on what happened at the Derby last night. They are all giving their Shekel and a Half criticism and thoughts of what should be done.

“Close the league”, said one. “Hand down radius matches”, said another. “The perpetrators should be thrown into jail and punished to the fullest extent of the law”, crowed another. But in reality they should look at themselves in the mirror and understand that they are at fault.

Where have they been during the ongoing Arab violence in and around Jerusalem since this summer’s war. Constant rock throwing, attacks on the light rail, unrest on the Temple Mount. Where is the government? Why do they not act? Isn’t this a more major concern then a football match?

Sure, it’s easy for the politicos to get in their 2 minutes of fame when everyone is talking about the Derby. But no one wants to look at the true root of the problem. When government officials along with security and police personnel allow what is going on in Jerusalem, then no one should be shocked at what happens at a highly charged football match.
Look at the education system. There are issues of violence in the schools and at home that don’t get dealt with swiftly and succinctly. The politicians remain silent. Every single one of the 120 Knesset members should be appalled!

Haven’t we learned anything from past experiences?

Was it not 19 years ago today when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by a citizen of Israel? Have we not done our homework as a nation, as a country? Can’t we do better?

Sure blame is placed on this and on that. The ref should have never shown Zahavi a red card. The referee association should have chosen a more experienced official for this match and the security staff should have been more with the program but if we don’t act on a national level how can we expect basic level entertainment to be a safe and sound environment?

This is the core of the problem. As Eyal Berkovic said last night, “Is this war? This is a game, not war!” And he’s 110% correct. Could have a person been killed or severely injured last night? Certainly, and this can still happen if the country doesn’t get its act together and handle real threats and dangers first and foremost.

Once the appropriate authorities get that under control, football will follow suit.