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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer fans curse Muhammed




A potential diplomatic incident was averted last night when a Turkish national television station decided not to show video taken by one of its reporters of Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer fans cursing and singing songs about Muhammed during a trip to a game in Turkey.
The network decided to shelve the tape following appeals from senior government officials.

The video was filmed by a Turkish reporter of Channel 24, Elif Ural, who accompanied the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team on its flight from Israel to the Turkish town of Kayseri, where it is scheduled to play against local team Erciyesstor Thursday evening.

A group of fans who were on the plane with the team were caught on video singing songs against Muhammad and Muslims.

Ural, who has been living in Israel for the past three years as the network's Mideast correspondent, was deeply offended by what she witnessed and heard, and by the club's officials' failure to intervene and put an end to the offensive behavior.

"The decision not to broadcast the video was the right one and I don’t have a problem with it," Ural said. "There is really no need to risk relations between Israel and Turkey because of 10 idiots. I understood that if the incident is published, the potential for a violent outbreak at the stadium and in the city could grow significantly. But what I felt on the plane would be very hard to forget."

Ural plans to speak with the club's chairman, Lonnie Hercikowicz, and complain about the incident."He needs to make it clear to his people that they should be no less committed than him to civility and mutual respect," she stated.
In all fairness, Israel's soccer fans are as lowlife as they are anywhere else in the world, and there have been incidents here in the past in which racist taunts have been heard at games, particularly against Arab players and teams. But that's not the point.

Since when does a soccer team control what its fans do on what was apparently a commercial flight? Is this meant to provide an excuse for violence at tonight's game? If they were so afraid of violence, why wasn't YNet asked to hold this story until tomorrow morning? And given that there was violence at a game two weeks ago between Hapoel Tel Aviv and Široki Brijeg in Bosnia, maybe games between Israeli teams and Muslim countries ought to be shifted to 'neutral sites' as was done with Israeli 'home games' in the European leagues during the Oslo War?

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