Rattling the Cage: The 90-minute hate

I'm not saying all soccer fans are fascist scum, but I am saying that all fascist scum seem to be fans.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
If I could, I would outlaw soccer, or at least limit it to pick-up games with no more than a half-dozen spectators. What happened this week on the anniversary of Rabin's assassination, when Betar Jerusalem fans booed during the minute of silence and sang songs of praise to Yigal Amir, was just another expression of the sort of thing that goes on all the time at soccer games not only in Israel, but all over the world. It's called mob fascism. Nationalist, racist, violent human herds doing their thing. It's not clear why this is so, maybe because the game resembles primitive warfare, but soccer attracts these kinds of people and inspires this kind of activity like no other sport. I'm not saying that all soccer fans are fascist scum, of course, but I am saying that all fascist scum seem to be soccer fans. At European games, you have spectators shrieking Nazi filth against the Jews and making hoo-hoo-hoo monkey sounds at black players. In Latin America, countries have been known to literally go to war over soccer rivalries. In Israel, you hear the monkey sounds, plus every sort of anti-Arab raving, plus the gloating over the Rabin assassination and the serenading of Yigal Amir and Baruch Goldstein. No matter which stadium, no matter which country, soccer goons are all cut from the same cloth, they have the same personality type, the same mentality. Only the accents are different. And it's not just the crazed nationalism and racism that's the problem, it's the shouted curses that never let up. They're like background noise. The fans swear at the opposing players, the referees, the opposing fans, their own players. They don't just blurt out a word or two, either, they take in as deep a breath as they can, then let it out in one long, hoarse, menacing stream of profanity about the other guy's mother, sister or manhood. THEY'RE CRETINS, these people. I've never seen anything like it, certainly not at American baseball, football or basketball games, and not even at rougher, earthier sports venues. I've been to boxing matches at the Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, and to bullfights in Tijuana, and the crowds were what you might call lusty, and many of the spectators were what you might call drunk from buying one beer after another, but there wasn't anything like this meanness, this viciousness that you find in soccer fans. Again, it's not everybody. It's probably not even a majority. But the lowlifes own the crowd, they're the voice of the crowd, because everybody else in the stands is afraid to say a word to them for fear of being set upon by a whole gang, which is a well-placed fear. In Israel, the Betar Jerusalem fans are the worst, the Kach of the league. They've intimidated the team ownership out of ever hiring an Arab player, but they're not the only racist rabble in Israeli soccer by any means. I've been to several Maccabi Tel Aviv home games (my older son's a fan) and heard the stands erupt in chants of hoo-hoo-hoo and songs of hatred for Arabs. This is not a local Jerusalem disease, it's nationwide, worldwide. Soccer is a natural breeding ground for fascism everywhere. I wish it could be outlawed in this country like cock fighting and pit bull matches, but it's not going to happen. And for all the pledges this week to "uproot the phenomenon," that's not going to happen, either. Soccer officials, politicians and police have been making this pledge for years and years, and the roots of the phenomenon have only grown deeper. Israel does many things well, but discouraging vile public behavior is not one of them. I'd suggest that next November 4, the best way to honor Rabin's memory would be to schedule no soccer games. Let the animals find someplace else to go wild. As for their hero and defender, Betar owner Arkadi Gaydamak, I'd suggest that Israeli law enforcement officials either indict him for money laundering or extradite him to France so he can be tried for illegal arms sales and a slew of other big-time felonies. Otherwise, this guy, who's eaten his way through Israeli society like a termite, could well get himself elected mayor of Jerusalem next year. It would be a disgraceful spectacle, but then that wouldn't be anything new.