Skip to main content

Knesset member tries to shut out Arab-Israeli soccer club

Knesset member Miri Regev has called for suspending the Arab-Israeli Bnei Sakhnin soccer club from the Israeli league over the raising of Palestinian flags during a match, ignoring racist actions by Jewish rival fans.
Fans of Bnei Sakhnin shout slogans during a match against Beitar Jerusalem as part of the Israeli Premier League, at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem February 10, 2013. There was heightened security at Sunday's match following last week's arraignment of four fans in connection with racist incitement against the team's recruitment of Muslim players. REUTERS/Nir Elias (JERUSALEM - Tags: SPORT SOCCER POLITICS) - RTR3DLIL
Read in 

In addition to its standing as the most popular sport in the country, Israeli soccer has another, less savory facet — an emotionally charged and nasty side that has nothing to do with sports or the spirit of achievement. It is the political aspect. Thus, the fans of the Israeli soccer club Beitar Jerusalem are associated with the nationalist right wing, while the fans of the Israeli soccer club HaPoel Tel Aviv are known as sympathizers of the left. As for the supporters of the Arab soccer clubs, by and large, they are the object of hatred.

Arab-Israeli soccer players have always played on various Israeli soccer clubs. Rifaat Turk and Zahi Armali were pioneers in this field, and in their time, served as role models. In the course of their careers on the field, they starred in the Israeli national soccer team and represented the State of Israel. They paved the way for other Arab-Israeli players, among them Salim Toameh, Abbas Suan and Walid Badir — the latter a record holder in the Arab sector (having taken part in 74 games with the Israeli national soccer team). At present, there are three Arab-Israeli players on the national team roster.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.