Sinai Says: Unsolved murder of soccer player highlights larger Arab sector issue

Sohaib Frij's murder remains a mystery.

The murder of Sohaib Frij (left) remains a mystery one month after he was gunned down outside his home in Kfar Kassem. (photo credit: EREZ NE’EMAN/GOLER1.CO.IL)
The murder of Sohaib Frij (left) remains a mystery one month after he was gunned down outside his home in Kfar Kassem.
(photo credit: EREZ NE’EMAN/GOLER1.CO.IL)
Exactly one month ago 24-year-old Sohaib Frij was gunned down outside his home.
The police is still looking for a lead.
He was in the midst of planning his wedding scheduled for later this year.
He was also a soccer player, a former member of the Israel under-21 national team. He played for Maccabi Petah Tikva in the Premier League in the 2011/12 season, making three appearances, including against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium. He was on his way up, but nagging hamstring injuries combined with some poor decision-making saw him drop to the lower divisions in recent years. At the time of his death, Frij was a member of his local club Kfar Kassem SC of the third division.
His murder remains a mystery.
Frij had no known previous connection with the criminal world and the questioning of many possible suspects by police has proven to be fruitless.
Frij’s case is the sixth unsolved murder in Kfar Kassem over the past four years alone. It highlights a growing problem in Israel’s Arab sector.
“There is a lot of uncertainty around this case. The fact there is no lead raises many questions among the youth in the village and causes frustration,” said Meretz Member of Knesset Esawi Frij, who was related to Sohaib and was his neighbor. “There is a sense of helplessness and that matters can spiral out of control, which is very dangerous.
“There is a feeling that Arab blood is cheap and it is very unpleasant when you know there are murderers walking the streets.”
The politician, who used to be the chairman of Kfar Kassem SC, is mainly concerned with the effect Sohaib’s murder has had on local youth.
“Sohaib’s case got a lot of attention among the locals because he was an adored soccer player. There are many youngsters among the team’s fans and they have been affected by this murder,” he said. “One woman told me that her 10-year-old son stopped going to his team’s training sessions, explaining that he didn’t want to become a famous player because he would then be murdered.”
Sohaib came through the Maccabi Petah Tikva youth department but after failing to break into the senior team he left for Bnei Lod ahead of the 2009/10 campaign.
He soon moved on to Kfar Kassem and after some impressive showings was signed by Maccabi Kabilio Jaffa.
Current Maccabi Haifa coach and then Maccabi Petah Tikva boss Marco Balbul spotted him in action late in the 2010/11 season and handed him a three-year contract. He ended up playing just three matches at Petah Tikva, but was invited to train with the under-21 national team in 2011, with then assistant coach Ofer Fabian, who guided Frij at Jaffa, recommending to head coach Guy Luzon to take a look at the winger.
He never got the chance to play for the blue-and-white and left Petah Tikva after one season, returning to Jaffa before moving back to Kfar Kassem.
Despite coming off the bench for much of the current season, he was the team’s leading scorer with seven goals.
A day before he was murdered, Sohaib played 15 minutes as a substitute in his team’s win over Hapoel Azur.
Those who knew him say he was a sweet and harmless man and that last year he even helped solve a dispute between a Kfar Kassem and Jaffa player after a brawl had erupted between the two following a match.
“No one knows why he was murdered and the fact the police has no answers results in all kinds of dangerous rumors on the street,” said Esawi Frij. “The only way to deal with the situation is for the government to make a decision that it is fighting against crime, particularly in the Arab sector. If such a decision is made and proper resources are allocated towards it, crime will drop drastically. But at the moment this is all happening in the backyard of Israel so it isn’t high on the priority list.”
Esawi Frij was at home when Sohaib was shot, but he initially didn’t pay the sound of firearms going off too much attention.
“I heard the gunshots but that sound has become part of our daily routine,” he explained.
Five days after the murder, around 2,000 local residents protested outside the police station demanding improved security.
Police insists that all the Kfar Kassem murder cases are being intensively investigated, but in the meantime a family grieves while the murderers remain at large.
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