People of the Shuk / This Is Your Captain Cursing

Maccabi Tel Aviv's management and the coaching staff deserve the shame of watching their captain say exactly the same things it had completely condemned. That is what happens to people who decide that Guy Pnini is worthy of being their captain.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's basketball club did not know how to digest the very unpolitically correct trash talk coming from its captain, Guy Pnini, in view of the delay of its official response. The club, which had spent an entire week vociferously defending human dignity and warning Hapoel Tel Aviv fans not to sing about a Holocaust heading for Maccabi Tel Aviv as they had in past, suddenly had to watch its captain say exactly the same things it had completely condemned.

Both management and the coaching staff deserve it. That is what happens to people who decide that Guy Pnini is worthy of being their captain. In recent years I made a hobby out of following in-depth interviews with Pnini. The same question always comes up in them - what about all the garbage on the court - followed by the standard answer. "I've matured," Pnini declares. "That's not me anymore."

And then Pnini steps on the court and barks out something repugnant, abrasive, painful to the ear and unprintable. He rags his opponents, the benches and the coaches, and on Sunday he called Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Erez Edelstein a Nazi. In short, he's a hooligan.

I've got no bone to pick with Pnini himself - it's his nature, and it's the only way he knows. With the help of these little gimmicks, he managed to build a career for himself and move up the ladder from an anonymous player on the Maccabi Ra'anana roster to captain of the country's top team.

The problem is his employers, who usually back up his foul mouth when he is serving them faithfully. The list of culprits, by the way, includes most of us because it happened more than once in Israel national team games.

Now when fans recoil from him and his deeds, Maccabi should announce that it has matured and that Guy Pnini is no longer captain.

The dumbest thing about Pnini is the words he chose. Ordinary curses were no longer good enough for the usual abuse. Hapoel Tel Aviv was clearly waiting for a pearl to fall into its hand. The team that was slandered for a week before the derby. Its fans were dragged through the mud. The police brought in backup to arrest fans who might shouting Holocaust slogans at Maccabi. Pnini delivered everything Hapoel wanted on a silver platter.

On the other hand, a line has to be drawn somewhere. What Pnini did was serious, yet there is a big difference between gutter talk on the court and an entire section singing Holocaust chants. Pnini deserves to be punished, but still it's not exactly the same thing.

Nir Keidar