Sports Carnage in Malcha
Picture: Ynet News – Chaim Tzach
Israeli athletes and sportsmen may be making big gains abroad, but recent miss-conduct occurrences on the home front is beginning to give local sporting events a very bad P.R. image. Sunday, November 11 was one of the worst days, from a conduct standpoint, in Israeli sporting match history. And coincidentally enough, both incidents involved teams sponsored by the Haopoel Sports Organization.

The first incident occurred during a derby match between the Hapoel and Macabbee Tel Aviv football teams. While always a bit of a bedlam series, Sunday’s match, in which several Haopoel fans ran onto pitch and a variety of smoke bombs and other objects were thrown at the players, ended with Hapoel winning by one point. This might have been end of that problem at this annual rivalry match, except that later that evening, another and even worse incident occurred at a basketball game between Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon. With less than two minutes left to play a large firecracker suddenly exploded next to the Hapoel Holon bench, wounding a security guard and blowing off three fingers in front of a shocked stadium. The event was captured on film and plastered on all the major newspapers this morning.

The game was stopped instantly and the outcome of it has been placed in suspension, even though the Jerusalem side was ahead 94-89. Haopoel Jerusalem’s chairman, Danny Klein was furious and announced later that his club will not play another match until the perpetrator is found. Klein even went further and said that if the ones responsible for this act are Hapoel Jerusalem fans he will quit his position with the club. A 20 year old suspect from Holon was arrested on Monday.

Hapoel’s conduct woes don’t stop here. In a football game played in Croatia earlier in the season, Hapoel fans created a disturbance in that match which resulted in the team being censured by the FA Football Federation. The Hapoel organization is not the only one being plagued by problems of gross misconduct on the part of the fans. Only a week ago, fans from the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club created a disturbance during a pre-game memorial ceremony for assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. This incident was so disturbing in the minds of many Israelis that the clubs owner, Arkady Gaydamak appeared later on television to try to make amends for the occurrence. For that incident the Beitar team was censored by the Israel Football Federation and forced to play their next two games without spectators.

These and other incidents seem to indicate a disturbing trend in spectator sporting events in Israel. A survey made of people who watch these games, either at the actual match or on television, seem to agree that violence at these events is on the rise and that football matches in particular are no longer considered to be family participation sporting events. It’s a real shame that this appears to be what is unfortunately occurring; and it appears to mirror a personality trend that is happening among a growing segment of the general public. This “trend” is evident from incidents like fights in nightclubs, some of which have resulted in death and personal injury, increased traffic accidents, and increasing use of alcohol and narcotics by minors; just to name a few.

While there may be many reasons for such goings on, that they also have to happen at sporting matches is a very sad and unfortunate thing. If we can’t behave ourselves at these events, how can we behave ourselves in normal day to day activities as well?