We Dwell Among Our Riffraff

Let's admit it: There is something infantile about being a fan of a soccer team when there is no soccer, and at an advanced age, there is something pathetic about it, a forced effort to prolong our childhood.

Everything that happens here surprises them: wars, intifadas, an unparalleled social gap, unpardonable poverty and appalling ignorance. One surprise follows another. Our tongues are already twisted from clucking and our consciences are threadbare from overuse. And this week, there was another sensational surprise: Beitar Jerusalem fans cursed the murdered man and praised the murderer. Suddenly, it was no longer a small handful, but a large handful. In other words, a substantial percentage of the spectators. In other words, the lion's share. In other words, almost all of them. We saw the sounds with our own eyes.

All these surprises have a common denominator: They are not at all surprising. On the contrary, they were entirely predictable, and had they not occurred, that would have been the real surprise. After all, the same riffraff has already demonstrated its talents in the past: It has attacked fans of other teams and endangered their lives. But the world of soccer carries on as though nothing had happened: The game must go on. The attack of this riffraff is like a terror attack. Both have a single purpose: to sow widespread fear. And this fear was sowed.

Later on, they humiliated black people. A black day awaited any player from Africa, Jew or non-Jew, who found himself in the stadium: From Jerusalem went forth the theory of race. The roars reached to the skies, but the god of the rabble is also deaf. Afterward, they cursed Arabs and their prophet Mohammed. "No Arab player will set foot on the grass of Teddy Stadium," they said; even if he removes his shoes, the ground is sacred. And Teddy (Kollek) turned over in his grave and asked to have his name erased from the stadium of shame.

The fan Ehud, before he became a prime minister "committed to the Rabin legacy," remained silent in those days, like one of the three monkeys. Bibi and Roni and Dan and Ruby also remained silent, not to mention the fan Yvette. They continued to sit in the place of honor in the bleachers, as though honor had not long since gone into exile.

Beitar is not the only team that drags such a wide, stained train of despicable behavior behind it, with the permission of its management. From the 10 measures of abomination, other teams have also taken a measure or two. Only a week ago, Haaretz Magazine reported on how Israeli soccer looks: leading players, top coaches, heads of the Israel Football Association and several leading commentators permit themselves to party with famous criminals, their good friends.

And yet, "nobody is as strong as Beitar" when it comes to the poisonous atmosphere that wafts from it. Even now, there is no general willingness to oppose the evil atmosphere. The landlord himself, Arcadi Gaydamak, blamed the organizers of the hasty ceremony in Haifa and acquitted his lowlifes. He refused to say whether or not it would be right to pardon the murderer, in order not to anger his flock. I would really like to hear his response if he had a team in Russia and its fans were to humiliate Vladimir Putin, whether during his lifetime or after his murder.

Let's admit it: There is something infantile about being a fan of a soccer team when there is no soccer, and at an advanced age, there is something pathetic about it, a forced effort to prolong our childhood. Beitar fans include representatives of the defeated elites, well-mannered children from good homes who are fast approaching old age. And they seem to be saying: We are people of broad knowledge and horizons, intellectuals and liberals, university professors and media talents; don't fear us because we are disconnected leftists, don't label us. Look, we dwell among our riffraff, in the bleachers of the disturbed, and that is proof that we are not condescending.

Perhaps there is no condescension here; that is not clear. But there is definitely self-abnegation and flattery. Amnon Dankner is the only one, or so I read in Ma'ariv, who has folded up his yellowing-blackening Beitar scarf.

Will all the others continue to be ashamed, and then to recover? To mourn over their team, but rejoice in its happiness when it wins the championship? If this "I'm ashamed" is now sufficient for anyone, it is a sign that he is afraid of the terror, and of himself. Only David Grossman, who has an empty room in his house, and in his heart, is not afraid at all.