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Police in Tel Aviv are investigating alleged threats which appeared on an online forum of die-hard Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer fans against journalist Ilana Dayan, as a media storm brews over a critical documentary on the team’s coach, Avi Nimni, broadcast on Thursday night.
The documentary, produced by Channel 2’s flagship investigative show Uvda
(Fact), examined claimed that an army of thuggish fans, formed around Nimni since he was a star player for the team in the 1990s, threatens and intimidates anyone perceived to pose a challenge to their hero.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
, police confirmed that the program’s makers filed a complaint over alleged threats made on the online forum of Ultras Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Web site frequented by the soccer team’s most dedicated supporters.
“Threats were made to harm Dayan. Our investigation is continuing,” a Tel Aviv police spokeswoman said.
Contrary to several media reports, however, police denied they were advising Dayan and a researcher for the show on how to increase security.
Nevertheless, Keshet, the media group which broadcast the program, confirmed in recent days that security has been stepped up around Dayan and other member of staff, though it refused to provide details.
Appearing on a morning talk show on Channel 2 on Thursday, Dayan was dismissive of the threats.
“Often in these cases, there is a threatening atmosphere. I don’t know how serious it is and what stands behind these threats. We have had all sorts of threats that came to us,” Dayan said. “Much of it is soccer talk though. I sleep fine at nights.”
Part of the program relied on the testimony of Assaf Mensherov, the brother of Maccabi Tel Aviv player Tom Mensherov who was suspended from the squad last year following a rift with Nimni.
Former Maccabi player and coach Nir Klinger also spoke out against Nimni’s power.
Nimni was thrown out of the team by Klinger in the summer of 2003. The midfield maestro played for Betar Jerusalem for two seasons before being brought back to Maccabi by the club.
In a statement released on Thursday, Nimni called on his supporters to refrain from making any threats against the program’s makers, and indicated he would soon be suing the program for libel.
“I call on anyone who holds Maccabi Tel Aviv dear to their hearts to refrain from any violence – physical or verbal. This is exactly what those same elements who have been running a media campaign to harm me want,” Nimni said.
Referring to Mensherov, Nimni continued, “These elements are headed by a man who is trying to harm me because I refused his demand to include his brother in the team. “Unfortunately, the Uvda program has fallen for these libels, and they will be proved as such only through the courts.”