Supporters of three cities

Tel Aviv, Jerusalem & Haifa all boast rabid supporters and love their clubs and their football, however, we have seen some unsettling activity over the past weekend.

Maccabi Tel Aviv played Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. Hold on, Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem?!?1?! Yes, Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.

Why you ask? As a punishment to Maccabi Tel Aviv’s supporters for throwing food and drinks on the Hapoel Tel Aviv players a few weeks ago in the Derby at Bloomfield Stadium.

Yes a “radius” punishment, a minimum of 60kms outside of Tel Aviv with a crowd allowed to attend, as 4800 of them made the trip to Israel’s capital to take in the match and cold air. I guess better a game away from home with supporters than with no fans at all which used to be the usual punishment dished out by the Israel Football Association’s court.

So, I got to go see a game with two non-Jerusalem teams a mere 10 minute drive away from my house and Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new interim coach Nir Levine taking the reigns of a struggling Tel Aviv side.

And struggle it was again. With a goal finally coming from Roi Kehat late in the game, it looked as if the blue and yellow were about to get off of their slide, but no.

As luck would hit them or hit Tel Aviv’s Sheran Yeinay’s hand in the box for a 92nd minute penalty and subsequent goal by Netanya’s Achmed Saba, Maccabi walked away with 1 point instead of 3. The supporters were stunned and dumbfounded as their team slumped further in the standings.

In Tel Aviv, Beitar Jerusalem laid another egg and played a disaster of a match against another team languishing in the standings in Bnei Yehuda. 3-0 loss for the yellow and black at Bloomfield Stadium and a team in a downward spiral with help in sight.

And what we saw is coach Yuval Naim’s methods of encouragement running thin on the players. A management with hands tied and no money to bring in quality players and a supporter fan base that well, went bananas.

The traveling Beitar supporters, the best in the country packed into their section, about 2500 of them and even their ability to move the players to play with all of their heart didn’t help.

The die hard fans so frustrated began taking out their anger on seats in the stands burning them, stomping on them and throwing them in every direction, destroying no less than 300! One fan even ran on the field to confront the players one on one during the course of play.

Frustration for Beitar supporters is an understatement. These supporters which represent the minority in the countries actions should be dealt with in an appropriate manner and anyone who enters the field of play or destroys stadium property should be handled with the fullest extent of the law.

I was embarrassed watching these scenes on TV. But one has to understand and feel their frustration as I do. I have been to a bunch of Beitar games this year and most matches I screamed and yelled at the top of my lungs at a lack of effort by the players, my players, so I feel for them.

Yelling and screaming is fine, breaking, burning and demolishing seats is totally another.

Lastly, The Haifa derby took place this past Saturday night at Kiryat Eliezer where after 10 years of hope Hapoel Haifa finally were able to get the proverbial monkey off their back and beat Maccabi Haifa 3-1 in a dominant performance by new coach Tal Benin’s new charges.

Again in this match Maccabi fans went nuts as the “Greens” also slid down the table and taunted coach Elisha Levy to quit along with tossing debris at the coaches and attacking some of the players after the match.

It is quite sad to see the state of these once proud franchises. Every team goes through its ups and downs but Beitar Jerusalem, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa all seem to have so many problems and so much pressure coming from all different angles.

Because of the woes, their supporter bases are on the edge, upset, angry and most of all frustrated with the lack of effort the players are giving.

This Wednesday, the Israel Football Association kangaroo court will dole out punishment to Beitar Jerusalem but not to Maccabi Haifa for both clubs fans actions. I believe this to be a disgrace and unjust. Why does Haifa get preferential treatment in this case?

I also would like to know why we never hear from the IFA Chairman Avi Luzon on these issues. Wouldn’t it be nice if the man in charge of the league would come out and make some strong statements on supporter behavior? Or is he just brushing it under the rug? Has he looked at attendance? Does he want more children and families to come to matches? I would hope so, but his silence is deafening.

Can the football culture in Israel change? I believe so, however to do it, strong leadership is a must, from the chairman of the league, to the presidents and owners of the clubs, the coaches and players and most importantly the supporters.

They are the ones who can make it or break it.

Time will tell.

The Sports Rabbi on, Wednesday Nights from 8-10pm.

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