The scourge of racism continues to infect the Beautiful Game.
Amid accusations of racism levelled at Mark Clattenburg and the Serbian crowd in recent high-profile matches for English football fans, a truly despicable episode is currently playing out in Israel following Beitar Jerusalem’s 3-2 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday night.
By way of background, Beitar’s fans are widely disliked by anyone outside the club or around the country as, being historically linked to the ultra-nationalist right and the Beitar political movement, the club’s supporters are tainted for their extreme behaviour, and their racist, anti-Arab chants.
On Monday night Hapoel striker Toto Tamuz (a Nigerian-born immigrant who has been in Israel since 1990) bore the brunt of the Beitar fans’ ire as he was taunted with alleged howling noises and racist verbal assaults.
Then, in the 65th minute, Tamuz had his moment of retribution. After receiving a ball over the top, the Hapoel striker smashed the visitors 2-1 ahead, and he celebrated his goal by placing one finger over his lips as he raced towards the centre circle. Tamuz’s actions were deliberate, as he rightly told the Beitar fans to shut the hell up.
But then came the crazy backlash.
Against all rhyme and reason, match referee Orel Greenfeld booked Tamuz for his ‘shushed’ goal celebration. With the attacker having been booked previously in the encounter, Tamuz was crazily sent off for a goal celebration which is widely seen throughout world football on an almost daily basis.
As we now know Beitar went on to defeat the 10-men 3-2, and Hapoel have since accused the match referee of incompetence while labelling the Beitar fans as racist in the following open letter to the Israeli FA:
Hapoel Tel Aviv is backing Toto Tamuz, who suffered from an ugly racist attack by Betar Jerusalem fans, who howled at him, threw bananas at him and cursed him in an offensive manner which shouldn’t be tolerated. Racism is intolerable and unforgivable and we will fight it with all our means. Tamuz’s sending off was a reward to racism and a distorted justification of this dangerous phenomenon.
Depressingly, Beitar have not only refused to accept charges of racism by their fans, but they have also released a counter statement turning the focus back onto Hapoel.
Hapoel Tel Aviv’s claims of howling and racism directed at Toto Tamuz are an unsuccessful attempt to find an excuse for their defeat and to vilify the Betar fans. We are certain that had there been any racist behavior it would have been mentioned in the referee’s report the way it was after last season’s match against Hapoel. Hapoel should restrain Tamuz, who provokes the Betar fans every time the teams meet. It is about time Tamuz gets the punishment he deserves for his provocative behavior.
Footage of Toto Tamuz’s goal & sending off can be seen in the clip below.