israel fans london 224.8.
(photo credit: AP)
Despite attempts by pro-Palestinian groups to dampen the spirits in the hours leading up to the England vs Israel game, there was a warm atmosphere between the two sets of opposing fans.
Some 60 supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) gathered on Olympic Way, the pedestrianized walkway leading up to London's Wembley stadium, chanting anti-Israeli slogans and waving flags and banners.
But nearly all the England fans walking past ignored the protesters efforts to bring politics into sports.
"They are just wasting their time," Worthing resident Keith Stinchcomb told The Jerusalem Post. "People just see them as a joke. They come somewhere between Greenpeace and those protesters who try to close the roads. This is not the place for this type of protest."
Marcel Kurtz of the PSC said he knew the soccer fans did not want to see politics and sports mixed, but claimed Israel is doing so by not allowing Palestinians to play sports.
One PSC member shouted over a megaphone that "Israel bombs Palestinians while they are playing football."
Some Israel fans were irked by the slogans, including "1,2,3,4 occupation no more; 5,6,7,8 Israel is a racist state," and shouted back at the demonstraters.
However, many of the London-based Israelis said they had seen much worse in their time living in England and noted how they had seen no animosity between the Israeli and English supporters.
"We are just here to enjoy the game and haven't seen any problems at all," one Israeli said as he waited outside Gate F to enter the stadium.
In stark contrast, in a show of unity between the two nations, a team, made up of England fans, defeated an Israeli supporters team 2-1, on Thursday evening, in an 11-a-side friendly game played in the shadows of Wembley Stadium.
But, although the result was important it was the great atmosphere between the supporters which was the key.
Organized jointly by Maccabi Great Britain and London England Fans (LEF), Thursday's game was the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at bridging gaps between nations.
Mark Perryman, who runs LEF, was delighted with the response, saying it was a competitive game, but showed how soccer can bring people together. LEF will be holding a similar game next week, against Russian supporters, ahead of England's qualifier against Russia on Wednesday.
The jovial atmosphere continued after the game, as the two sets of teams tucked into kosher smoked salmon bagels and Maccabi beer.
Maccabi and LEF previously held joint events in Tel Aviv before the Israel vs England game in March, when dozens of activities were organized on behalf of the supporters.