Despite a tense build-up and its volatile potential, the State Cup showdown
between Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Umm al-Fahm was played out in a relatively
amiable atmosphere at Teddy Stadium on Tuesday night, allowing all involved to
breath a huge sigh of relief.
Around 9,000 fans, over 2,000 of them
backing Umm al-Fahm, attended the match which Betar had initially planned to
play in front of empty stands to avoid a recurrence of Saturday’s racist
behavior by supporters.
Betar was summoned to stand trial at the Israel
Football Association’s disciplinary court on Tuesday after supporters reacted
angrily to owner Arkadi Gaydamak’s announcement that the club is set to sign
Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev from the Chechnyan team Terek Grozny;
raising banners reading: “Betar [will be] pure forever” and singing anti-Arab
chants during the 1-0 Premier League defeat to Bnei Yehuda on
Moments after the final whistle to Tuesday’s encounter, the IFA
announced that Betar had been fined NIS 50,000 and that the east stand in Teddy
will be closed in its next five matches as a punishment for Saturday’s
The anti-Muslim bigotry was met by wide-scale condemnation in
Israel and abroad, with IFA chairman Avi Luzon revealing during a meeting with
Betar chairman Itzik Kornfein that FIFA and UEFA are following the happenings at
Betar and could demand the club be shut down should the racism in the stands
However, considering the events of recent days, Tuesday’s match
went off without a hitch, although Umm al-Fahm fans left Teddy in a miserable
mood after their second-division team was thrashed 5-0 by Betar.
tensions high in anticipation of the match, National Police spokesman Micky
Rosenfeld said police deployed several hundred extra police officers in and
around the stadium to prevent any violent incidents from breaking
Police also said that they will not allow fans to bring in signs
bearing racist messages and that a significant part of their deployment is meant
to prevent racist chants, not only acts of violence.
Magistrate’s Court barred the entrance of 50 Betar fans to the match after the
club had appealed to forbid them from entering Teddy as they were involved in
Saturday’s racist conduct.
Alarmed and angered by increasing incidents of
racism, President Shimon Peres sent a sharply worded letter to the IFA prior to
last night’s match.
Peres appealed to the IFA and all other relevant
authorities to do their utmost to quell all expressions and manifestations of
racism inside and outside soccer stadiums.
“I am sure that the entire
country is shocked by this phenomenon and will never agree to come to terms with
it,” Peres wrote in his letter. Noting that sport today is a universal
declaration against racism, Peres emphasized that it was unacceptable for the
opposite to take place in Israel.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert also
voiced his opinion by publishing a column in Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday stating
that he will not attend a Betar match until the club disconnects itself from the
“group of racists” who were involved in Saturday’s incident.
Betar fan, Olmert said that he is fed up of being identified with racists who
have no connection to what he believes Betar should symbolize in Israeli sports
Greer Fay Cashman and Ben Hartman contributed to this