After an altercation during last Thursday's (April 21, 2016) Soccer match between Maccabi Tel Aviv (TA) and Bnei Sakhnin (based in an Arab town in the Galillee), the headline of Israel's well known left-wing daily, Ha'aretz, declared that the soccer match showed "Israel's ugly nature." Writer Gideon Levy was referring to Maccabi's win-at-any-cost approach. According to him, Maccabi Tel Aviv behaves in ways that can only be described as "aggressive, brutal, and arrogant."

There is no doubt that Maccabi TA had a choice between taking advantage of a situation in a way that is legal but not sportsmanlike versus doing the gentlemanly thing and losing an opportunity to break a tie.

Advertisement
Advertisement

They chose the former.

Near the end of the game, with the score tied 2-2, Sakhnin's Ali Osman suffered a slight injury and let the ball roll off the field in order to gain time to be tended to. Maccabi TA's Tal Ben Haim, picked up the ball before play could stop and scored the winning goal.

Advertisement

Saknin team members were furious, accusing Maccabi TA of taking advantage of their inattention to the game for a moment as they concerned themselves with Osman's injury. Maccabi TA, for its part, claims that many of the teams in the league waste time and drag games out needlessly. Readers who follow international soccer can probably weigh in on how teams in other countries would likely have behaved in such a situation.

After the game had ended, Yossi Abuksis, Sakhnin's coach, was sent off when he protested to the referees.

Four days after this controversial match, Maccabi TA played Bnei Sakhnin at Doha, Sakhnin's home stadium. Tensions were high and police presence was fortified; instead of about 80 police officers, there were over 200. The social media had been raging with threats against fans from both teams and the main entrance to town was blocked off, with fans coming in through a less frequently used entrance, accompanied by police vehicles.

The game proceeded without a hitch until the end. Sakhnin achieved its goal of at least finishing with a tie and that should have satisfied all connected with the team. However, Coach Abuksis, always known for his provocative behavior from the time he was a player himself, went over the to Maccabi team after the final whistle and a fight broke out.

Maccabi TA's goalie pushed Abuksis, who claimed afterward that he was going to protest abusive language shouted out to his team throughout the game, and then shake hands with Maccabi team staff.

Advertisement

Maccabi team members accused security of being aggressive toward them as they cleared the field to separate the sides.

Maccabi team captain, Eran Zehavi, reportedly made the statement that he didn't know if he was in Israel or Ramallah (largest city in the Palestinian Authority) and that he didn't feel safe. He drew much criticism for this comments. It should be noted that Bnei Sakhnin's coach and a few team members are Jewish, and Arabs play on predominantly Jewish teams.

Advertisement

Arab-Jewish tensions at games used to be much greater in the past than it is now.

Compared with reports in other countries, the violence seen here, while there is no place for it at all, seems rather mild.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!
Click to read more