The Last Word: Betar fans have only themselves to blame

It is clear that the crazy Betar Jerusalem supporters created this situation by ignoring all the warnings and crushing their fellow fans.

By JEREMY LAST
May 8, 2007 06:16
2 minute read.
The Last Word: Betar fans have only themselves to blame

betar fan crush 298.88. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])

This should have been a week of intense celebration in Jerusalem - the first time Betar has won the Premier League in nine years. Instead, there will be far less excitement among the most passionate fans in the country than there should have been if some of them had thought about what they were doing during the final minutes of Sunday's match against Hapoel Petah Tikva. As the dust settles on the disaster at Teddy Stadium, it has become obvious that there is only one group to blame for the situation that caused two fans to be so badly crushed against a perimeter fence that they were taken to the hospital in serious condition. A number of Israeli columnists and commentators have claimed it was the police's fault that so many people were injured as they initially did not allow the fans onto the field, or the stadium owner's fault for not having the fences taken down. But really, it is clear that the crazy Betar Jerusalem supporters created this situation by ignoring all the warnings and crushing their fellow fans as they rushed towards the fences. They will be the ones who should be punished for their stupidity and lack of foresight. They had been told they would not be allowed on the field. And the team hadn't even clinched the championship. But a selfish group decided to ignore the advice and swarmed towards the fence at the front of the Mizrahi stand, creating such pressure that the police eventually had to let them on to the field. Over the years, Betar fans have developed an appalling reputation for violence and racism, something that has tainted the team and led numerous Jerusalemites to turn their back on what could be a central focus for the city. Ironically, the supporters have behaved well this season. It was the fans of Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa who caught the headlines last year after their clashes with police. With no Bnei Sakhnin to play, there have been few problems with the Betar fans. But all those months of good behavior were undone Sunday. The images of ambulances and crushed bodies will stay with us for a long time to come. The pictures broadcast on television and published in the newspapers instantly reminded one of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans died in a crush at the start of an English FA Cup Semifinal match against Nottingham Forest held at the ground of Sheffield Wednesday. The pictures looked similar but the situations could not be more different. In Sheffield, the fans had nowhere to go, as too many people had been allowed into a single section of the stadium. In Jerusalem on Sunday, the fans could have just turned around and gone home. There was ample space at the back of the stands. Had they done that, nobody would have been injured. But they insisted on pressing and pressing, and their insistence caused more than fifty people to be injured. The problem lies not in the number of policemen at the game or at the fact that the fencing exists around the field, but in the people themselves. Unfortunately, the many young impressionable Jerusalem supporters often act like sheep. You could see that it was a preplanned decision when thousands of fans ran down from the top to the bottom section of the Mizrahi at the same time. These youngsters listen to the leaders of the fans and do whatever they say. Now they may take a step back and realize this isn't always the best way. jeremylast@gmail.com


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