Local Soccer: IFA remains defiant after arson

Gil Levanony: We'll continue to fight against the violence, racism and we are sure the police will find the people who did this.

Betar Jlem Mac Haifa 224 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jlem Mac Haifa 224
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
As the dust settled and the clean-up operation gathered pace, officials at the Israel Football Association's offices in Ramat Gan were determined to return to work as normal on Thursday, a day after vandals set fire to the premises and smashed its windows. While the grafitti threatening the life of IFA Chairman Avi Luzon signed by fans of Betar Jerusalem had quickly been cleaned off the walls outside the offices, which are part of the National Stadium in Ramat Gan, the full length glass windows have yet to be replaced. Around 35 people work in the IFA offices including in the referees' department. "We are trying to get back to normal," IFA spokesman Gil Levanony told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday afternoon. "Of course it wasn't the nicest thing in the world to come to your place of work and find such destruction and see someone has threatened to murder your boss. But we wont give up. "We will continue to fight against the violence and racism and we are sure the police will find the people who did this and they will be put in jail." Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said no suspects have been arrested and the special investigation team set up to look into the incident, which occurred at around 2.30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, is continuing to operate. The attack appeared to be retaliation by supporters of Betar Jerusalem who have become disenchanted with the IFA, and Luzon specifically, especially since the club was punished for the fans' curses against the prophet Muhammad directed at supporters of Arab team Bnei Sakhnin before a Toto Cup semifinal last month. There has, however, been no confirmation that Betar fans were responsible for the attack and supporters group La Familia has reportedly denied any involvement. Levanony confirmed that the offices have security cameras in operation during the night and the police immediately took the hard disk to use as part of the investigation. According to some reports the footage showed four individuals carrying out the attack but they have not been identified. Luzon has not made any public statements on the issue but Levanony said the chairman has kept relaxed and is not scared by the attack and messages of hate daubed on the walls of his office. "He's not scared and we're not scared," Levanony said. "It [the attack] is just proof we disturb them when we punish and when we fight." "It will be ok because we believe in our way and we are the good guys," he added. "Ninety percent of Betar fans are great and good and just want to see soccer. It is not about Betar versus the IFA it is between bad and good. Want to see soccer without racism and violence and bad people want to see soccer as a battlefield." The IFA had no reaction to comments by Betar owner Arkadi Gaydamak made at a press conference on Wednesday where the Russian oligarch condemned the violence but still blamed the association for "amplifying" the situation. "Sometimes its better to be silent," an IFA source noted. The IFA's work with world soccer's governing body FIFA continued on Thursday. The association was recently given the ISO 9001 certification of quality management systems and FIFA representatives arrived in Israel on Wednesday for a three-day visit to discuss how the international certification can be implemented at other soccer associations around the world. Meanwhile, FIFA will decide on Israel's schedule for its 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign after the teams in Group 2 failed to work the schedule out themselves by the January 16 deadline. Representatives of the Greece Switzerland, Moldova, Latvia and Luxembourg as well as Israel met in Tel Aviv earlier this month but no conclusive decision was made.