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Turning Darkness into Light

Last night was a dark one for Israeli Football. Instead of going to a football match between Beitar Jerusalem vs. Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium, unfortunately fans were treated to a brutal display of racism by some in the crowd.

I want to be crystal clear before I go on. It was not all the supporters in the stadium and not all of the supporters on the Mizrahi, the East side of the stadium. It was only some of the fans, not all of them in Yellow & Black that got into the act of ranking out owner Arkady Gaydamak for wanting to sign two Muslim players from Terek Grozny.

Zaur Sadayev & Dzhabrail Kadiyev the two Chechnya players are already guilty until proven innocent by just being Muslim by some of these fans. This is just plain wrong.

On Saturday morning Ofira Assayag of the Israeli sport website One.co.il reported that Beitar Jerusalem owner Arkady Gaydamak was interested in brining over these two young gentleman in order to help Beitar maintain it’s good record in the standings, currently in 4th place and potentially help them move up to secure European Qualification.

This potential move set the Beitar fans ablaze and the internet and fan forum websites went wild with the news.

“A protest against Arkady!” said one fan. “We won’t enter the stadium!” said another. Yet another, “How can I support such a move which is against my values!” And thankfully there were others who said the exact opposite.

Signs hanging in Teddy said, “Beitar is Pure”, “70 Years of Purity”.

Excuse me?

Muslim players have graced the pitch at Teddy in the past, not faring well from a professional perspective, and an Israeli Arab player has never played for Beitar.
Folks, this has to change.

I don’t want to hear the excuses that no good Israeli Arab players exist. Isn’t Biram Kayal playing at Celtic? Is Weam Amasha not good enough? I don’t care if the player is Jewish, Druze, Muslim, Arab, green, black, blue or purple! If they can help Beitar Jerusalem strive to be the best they can, then they are welcome to join!

Haven’t we moved out of the dark ages and into the 21st century?

Apparently for some Beitar fans, not. And the media knows it.

Certain elements of the media know how to stroke the fire especially when it is against Beitar Jerusalem.

They tried last week leading up to the 2-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa. Prodding the fans to jump on the election right wing versus left wing bandwagons. Fortunately, no one fell for that.

The One website is notorious for trying to find fault in Beitar and its fans. At last night’s match Bnei Yehuda player on loan from Maccabi Haifa Sari Falach, broke his leg in a collision with Beitar ‘keeper Ariel Harush. One could hear Falach’s screaming throughout the stadium, everyone knew that this was a serious injury. After a number of minutes on the ground, he was carted off by Magen David Adom personnel to the cheer of the crowd.

One immediately wrote on its site that the Beitar fans have no class and they were happy he was hurt. I couldn’t have disagreed more. The fans reaction was genuine feel for this player, Jew or non-Jew alike.

Beitar management has been battling the hooligan fans in the crowd for some time now, with Chairman & former club ‘keeper Yitzik Korenfine leading the charge. He has done a good job up to now trying to get the “element” to accept change. I hope that he does not get discouraged by the fans or media.

And I hope he has some words for his coach Eli Cohen on this matter.

After the match, Cohen was quoted that people should understand that a European Muslim isn’t like an Arab Muslim.

Sorry Eli. This could be no further from the truth. We, along with they, are all human beings.

I kind of get what Coach Cohen wanted to do. He wanted to take a bit of pressure off of the fans and defuse the situation. But this was not too helpful, it could be disastrous.

If Beitar Jerusalem and the Israel Football Association (IFA) want to make a real leap in the eyes of UEFA and FIFA, they must begin by playing the game correctly, on and off of the pitch.

And by the way, there was a football match. One that was not too good. Listless in fact. Beitar players looked so disinterested in the affair as Bnei Yehuda defeated the home team 1-0 on a goal that should have been ruled off side, one of the many mistakes made by referee Liran Wechsberger on this night of many.

Chairman Korenfine, don’t brush this under the rug. Continue the fight against racism, against hooliganism & barbarianism. Help Beitar Jerusalem take its rightful place on the international stage as a club that is respected in Israel, across Europe and the world. This is the only way the darkness will turn to light!