Sinai Says: Israeli soccer fans’ treatment of Harush well beyond shameful

Harush will have to contend with Beitar fans once more next Monday when Netanya hosts Jerusalem in Premier League action.

Maccabi Netanya goalkeeper Ariel Harush. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Netanya goalkeeper Ariel Harush.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Ariel Harush must be wondering what he has done to deserve this.
Professional athletes unfortunately grow accustomed to receiving abuse from rival fans. But for the past two years, Harush has been cruelly targeted by the so-called supporters of his own team.
What, you may ask, has the 26-yearold goalkeeper done to warrant such a vile reaction? Well, he spoke out against racism while at Beitar Jerusalem and has become the scapegoat for Maccabi Netanya’s struggles after joining the team last summer.
Instead of being hailed for his stand against the racist and violent minority of Beitar fans and becoming the hero of Netanya supporters as their biggest off-season acquisition, Harush has time and again unfairly found himself cast in the role of Judas.
On Monday, the verbal abuse almost culminated in physical violence.
A Netanya fan snuck on to the team’s bus as it was about to make its way to Sakhnin for a Premier League match and he was only stopped at the last moment before being able to confront Harush.
That was sadly not the first time that Harush has had to fear for his own safety due to his playing career, with the goalkeeper being pelted with rocks by Beitar supporters in the summer of 2013 after showing his support for Chechen Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev.
Harush had been a fan favorite after coming through the club’s youth department to become the team’s starting goalkeeper and captain. He was a fixture in Beitar’s lineup starting from the 2010/11 season, but the signing of Kadiyev and Sadayev two years ago changed everything.
felt obliged to rally behind his new teammates after they had received abuse from fans due to their religion and ethnic background, which immediately turned the ’keeper into a target.
His every touch of the ball was received with boos after defying the racists and speaking out against their treatment of Kadiyev and Sadayev on his Facebook page.
“I know exactly who those fans are and I overcame them. We need to support every player who joins the team,” he said at the time.
However, those thugs would continue to make his life a misery and ultimately got their wish when new owner Eli Tabib decided to cut ties with Harush.
Following an arduous arbitration, Harush was allowed to leave the club as a free player and was awarded NIS 450,000 after having his salary held back by Tabib.
Harush must have been thinking to himself that finally he would be able to get his career back on track by starting anew at another club.
However, with the arbitrator only ultimately making his final decision in mid-August, a couple of weeks before the start to the season, the goalkeeper didn’t have many options.
He signed with Netanya, with the club deciding to demote Ohad Levita in favor of Harush even though the former had played a key role in helping the side to Premier League promotion.
The fans were quick to protest against the addition of Harush, claiming that there were ulterior motives behind the signing and that the club should be using the money to address the team’s true needs.
Harush was always going to become the fall guy after that, and matters only got worse as the poor results began to pile up.
Netanya found itself facing bankruptcy after owner Eli Segev announced he will be leaving the club in November and coach Yossi Mizrahi’s request to resign was finally accepted last week.
Roni Levy was brought in and Netanya claimed a 2-0 win at Bnei Sakhnin in his first match in charge on Monday to climb up to ninth place, five points off the relegation zone.
However, Harush still found it hard to smile after the victory following his confrontation with the fan earlier in the day and the profanities he was forced to endure during the encounter.
“Sadly there were around 10 people who cursed endlessly, but I know they don’t represent all of Netanya’s fans,” he said after the match.
“The team finds itself in a tough situation and the fans are frustrated, but it is a shame they take it out on me like this. Real fans should support the team and not curse the players. I believe that the fans will learn from this.
“I have given so much to Maccabi Netanya and I shouldn’t be treated like this. It is a spit in the face.”
The seemingly ever-forgiving Harush agreed to meet the fan who tried to assault him on Tuesday (the way he also did at Beitar) and accepted his apology rather than file a complaint.
“You have got to support us,” Harush told the fan. “I went through some tough times at Beitar and I know how to handle these situations, but it is important for the players that you back us because your cursing lowers our confidence.”
Harush seemed set to take over from the retired Dudu Aouate as the Israel national team’s starting goalkeeper, but the off-field distractions have cost him dearly. He started in the friendlies against Slovakia, Mexico and Honduras last year, but was dropped in favor of Ofir Martziano for Israel’s Euro 2016 qualifying opener against Cyprus in October and wasn’t even named among the squad’s three goalkeepers for the qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina two months ago.
As if this wasn’t already an emotional time for Harush, he will have to contend with Beitar fans once more next Monday when Netanya hosts Jerusalem in Premier League action.
Harush considered leaving Netanya after what had happened on Monday morning, but he will be in goal once more against Beitar, doing his best to withstand shots on the pitch, and perhaps even more painful ones from the stands.