Saturday, August 9th, 2008
At the start of the week, the buzz in Israeli football was on a high as champions Beitar Jerusalem were looking forward to beating Wisla Krakow in the Champions League, booking a glamour tie against Barcelona in the Holy Land. Beitar lead 2-1 from the first leg, and their dream was in touching distance of becoming a reality.
Yet on game night the Israeli’s produced a truly woeful performance, taking a 5-0 drumming at the hands of the Poles, and crashing the dreams of the local, fanatical supporters who always expect their team to do better. Beitar’s fans however draw little compassion from anyone outside the club or around the country, being historically linked to the ultra-nationalist right and the Beitar political movement, the club’s supporters are tainted for their extreme, often violent behaviour and their anti-Arab chants.
Much like the ultras of Lazio, the Beitar fans actually exert a degree of control over the team. At the end of last season, with Beitar having just four minutes to play out before sealing the championship title, the fans caused the match to be called off due to an early pitch invasion.
But it is their racist reputation which draws the greatest disdain, and on their team’s return to Jerusalem from the Polish debacle, the supporters descended onto the training ground and made their feelings publicly known.
Standing in the stands, pearched over the players, they hurdled monkey noises at Beitar’s Ghanaian midfielder Derek Boatang (regarded as one of the best players in the league), while screaming abuse at their players telling them they are a disgrace, asking them if they are not embarrassed, and taunting them that they are only at Beitar for the money. (The owner, Russian-born billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak, is Israel’s version of Roman Abramovich.)
Eventually the Beitar players reacted, with club captain David Amsalem confronting the abusive supporters before Yoav Ziv got involved in a tit-or-tat exchange with the fans.
See the footage of confrontation between the Beitar players and their fans here.