The players and professional staff of Israeli teams are not the only ones who have learned from their experiences in European competition. The clubs' fans, who long ago learned that it is not enough to arrive at the stadium with a few songs and scarfs, have also learned from the past. Today, Israeli fans arrive at European stadiums equipped with standard gear, some of it top-of-the-line. Among Maccabi Haifa's supporters in Valencia, you can find drums, flags, body painting and a range of original and interesting songs.
The fans themselves also are colorful and fascinating. There is Porat the soldier, who took special leave from the army to attend the match and must report back to his base tonight - in time to take leave on Sunday to watch Haifa's match against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
There is Grandma Shoshana, now a resident of Eilat, who has been rooting for Maccabi Haifa for 40 years.
She comes to the games painted in the team's green and white colors, carrying a huge green doll with curls and the number 10 on its back - "Reuven Atar when he was a child." There is also Nir, who took a detour via Valencia on his way back home to Israel from a trip to South America, even though he didn't think he would be able to get a ticket to the game.
But along with these colorful fans, the ugly Israeli also appears at every destination, including Valencia.
Two days ago, in the wee hours of the night, six or seven young Haifa fans entered their hotel with water pipes (narghilot), whiskey bottles and loud music. The volume got louder with every sip of alcohol. Even after the hotel's security officer came to their room, they continued their wild behavior, spraying each other - and the contents of the hotel room - with a fire extinguisher.
The hotel manager threatened to call the police, but the travel company that arranged their trip to Valencia intervened and worked out an arrangement to avoid further unpleasantries. The incident ended with apologies and payment of damages - but the image of Israeli fans cannot be so easily rectified.
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