Soccer / Why Maharan Radi Must Leave Maccabi Tel Aviv

Radi could be the Israeli Rosa Parks, the one who finally puts his foot down and says "enough" to racist fans.

Maharan Radi needs to leave Maccabi Tel Aviv. Period.

The talented No. 9 should take off his shirt, leave it at Maccabi's training grounds in Kiryat Shalom and say goodbye. The man who almost singlehandedly brought Maccabi its first title in a decade should slam the door on the hundreds of racist fans sitting in Maccabi's stands – fans who, during Monday's 0-3 loss to Bnei Yehuda, were more focused on their despicable chants than on the game. Radi should bid farewell and bring a much more important title to Israeli society. He is the only one capable of doing so.

Maharan Radi should be a symbol. He needs to be the one who says, "Enough." He needs to leave the pitch and refuse to sweat for fans who make up racist chants about his people.

Radi could be the Israeli Rosa Parks – the one who finally puts his foot down and makes it clear that some things are more important than money, more important than the adoration of some fans, more important than the game itself.

Last week Radi probably got a sense of what it must be like to be manic depressive. In the 68th minute he stood opposite the red wall of Hapoel Tel Aviv players, and with a masterstroke scored Maccabi's second goal, leading the champions to a wonderful comeback and derby victory. And then, less than 25 minutes after the fans lovingly sang his name, Radi heard those very same fans chanting anti-Muslim slurs.

Maccabi fans are still debating whether the tears Radi shed at the end of the game were due to the love he received or the hatred he witnessed. But the look on his face really left no doubt that his tears came in response to the chants after the final whistle.

Very few athletes would want to assume such a political burden as what is being suggested here. This is especially true for soccer players, and even more so for the Israeli-Arab players among them. Very few wish to become a symbol of Arab society, the counter-image to Israeli Jewish society.

But Radi could be the right man at the right place. A man who is proud of his heritage. An individual who ends all his Facebook posts with "and the most important thing is to eliminate racism, Insha'Allah." A believer who makes no secret of the fact that he prays five times a day to Allah and his prophet, Mohammad. A person who never forgets where he came from (the Arab village of Sulam, next to Afula, in case you're interested).

Radi should say his goodbyes while he is still with Maccabi Tel Aviv, since the racist fans from Maccabi's stand 11 in Bloomfield Stadium are actually worse than the racist Beitar Jerusalem fans from the Eastern stand in Teddy Stadium. The Beitar La Familia fans at least have the integrity to swear and boo consistently, even when a Muslim player scores a goal for their team. The Maccabi Tel Aviv racists simply ignore it when Radi or Moanes Dabour or Hasan Abu Zaid score or assist goals for their team. They even manage to overlook Radi's Allahu Akbar-style kneelings every time he scores a goal. This season they were forced to do so seven times, including twice in derby games.

Radi's move would be a victory not for the "handful" of racist fans, but for the majority of fans – those who loudly boo the racist chants every time they are heard in Bloomfield. The "handful" simply doesn't deserve to enjoy the services of Israel's top soccer player. They don't deserve to enjoy such a positive and impressive individual, or to watch him thank his god for making those who curse him. Eventually Maccabi will experience another bad spell, and then the sane majority will stay home and the "handful" of racist fans will again be dominant. These fans simply don't deserve to have a player like Radi don their yellow jersey. 

Sefi Magriso