Soccer / Premier League

Stop Picking on the Fans

A security guard tells you to go with him. Says you threw fruit onto the pitch. When you demand proof, he sends you back.

Maccabi Haifa’s game against Bnei Yehuda was an easy three points. I try, as much as I can, to attend all Maccabi Haifa’s outings, home and away. I sometimes choose the press box, and other times prefer to sit with my friends in the regular stands. When that happens, I behave like any other fan: I shout, swear, get worked up, boo and explain to all those who offer me sunflower seeds that I simply don’t know how to split them open. Like 99 percent of fans, I’m there to see a game and cheer my team on.

Therefore, when a security guard approached me during the game against Bnei Yehuda and told me to accompany him, I was surprised. I never really believed such a moment would ever arrive. He refused to tell me what I did to deserve his attention, and later explained that he is forbidden to do so since he isn’t a police officer. He was in no way violent, and even waited for me a few seconds when I requested to see Ruben Rayos’ penalty converted.

And what a strange feeling it is, when all the stand sees you walk down with the guard and everybody asks, especially during such a dull match, "what did he do?" I tried to imagine how it would feel if I was a father and had to leave my little kid there, or if people I knew from work were in the stand and would now see me differently. How uneasy is that feeling? Very uneasy.

I was taken away to the player’s area and presented with a large, yellow fruit. I’m still not positive what it was. The guard gave me a stern look and told me that he caught me throwing the fruit. “And I have it shot on video,” he added.

If you’re in suspense as to what happened next, have no fear: I immediately whipped out my press card issued by the Israel Football Association and politely requested to see the video. His tone changed completely, and the commander of the police unit ordered the security guards to take me back to the stands where, indeed, everybody asked me what I had done. I never got to see the clip starring the strange fruit and myself, which is a bit of a shame. At least I would have had something to remember from one the most boring games I’ve ever witnessed.

This strange event, I later found out, wasn’t so exceptional. A friend posted my story on his Facebook page and two of his friends immediately told similar stories. One was treated in the same fashion at Bloomfield Stadium, and the other in Vasermil Stadium in Be’er Sheva. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t whip out a journalist's accreditation.

Only something very serious can cause me to stop going to matches. This is one of my favorite pastimes – I simply love going to games. I prefer watching my team, but I also enjoy the lower leagues or watching games abroad. I really love sports events. In any case, I’m probably not the best example for what I’m about to write, but such cases can cause people to stop going to games.

These occurrences are only possible because of the authorities’ attitude toward soccer fans. This includes fans of all clubs. Earlier this season, policemen clashed with Hapoel Tel Aviv fans and only this week police, for some reason, wanted to relocate Bnei Sakhnin’s game against Beitar Jerusalem, despite the former hosting all their home games this season at Doha Stadium.

And why are we entitled to such an attitude? Are soccer fans in Israel more violent than other segments of society? Absolutely not; in the vast majority of games, police and security guards don’t have anything to do before, during or after the games since the fans' behavior is impeccable.

This attitude is possible since no one cares for Israeli soccer fans. It seems that the authorities forget that this is a normative group of people paying good money, hoping to enjoy an experience. This experience might be louder or more active than other pastimes, but it certainly is a part of our culture. There is absolutely no justification to pluck someone from his seat and, if indeed a camera captured the event, one should be allowed to see the clip, examine the participants and make sure that we’re talking about the same seats, or the same row. There’s no reason to target anyone like that. Such behavior only adds to the long-standing mistrust between fans and the security guards and police at the stadiums. And that is a crying shame.

Sharon Bokov