The Israeli Soccer Game That Changed Everything

The 5-0 win over Beitar Jerusalem was the moment Maccabi Tel Aviv grasped that a 17-year wait was over and a new era had begun

It was the 86th minute of the 26th game of the season. Substitute Moanes Dabour scored his second goal within two minutes and Maccabi's fifth against Beitar Jerusalem. At that moment all hell broke loose. No limits, no stopping, no more fears.

Maccabi fans began singing songs from that year when the last double was won, and some of them even uttered the unspeakable word, championship. In the 86th minute of a cool night in the beginning of March several moments joined into one, symbolizing the end of a cursed era that lasted 17 years. Not a decade, as most people wrongly believe, but 17 years. The 2003 title was a fluke, won by several individual players and a coach who simply refused to give up.

When the Bloomfield Stadium scoreboard read 5-0, one could not escape the feeling that a change had finally come. Maccabi fans stopped thinking of the past, stopped comparing this team's achievements, players and moves to those of the teams of the 1990s, who actually were a mental burden on every Maccabi team since. At that moment one grasped that we were witnessing history being written before our very eyes; and yet, there was no need to share that moment with everyone by reaching for your smartphone. You knew that whoever wasn't there simply couldn’t understand, because no one who had suffered like Maccabi fans could understand how it felt; because only those who had been mocked and humiliated for 17 years, carrying the burden of what wrongly seemed to be fate, could really grasp the change.

Fans walked down the stand after the final whistle, adding the moments together. Many of us walked slowly because there were so many of these that added up: the 4-3 against Ramat Hasharon, the 4-0 against Be'er Sheva, the six goals scored against Hapoel Haifa, the four goals against the ex-champions, that Lugasi goal. Oh, and there was a derby somewhere along the way.

One walked slowly down the stand, allowing other fans to pass, hoping to savor the moment. You understand that this was the moment that brought it all together, the moment that opened the door, allowed you to finally smile broadly. To be proud. A moment when you knew the championship was coming, and nothing could stop it.
 

Nir Keidar