Tag Archives: Israeli Football

Luzon my religion: Israel’s not-so-beautiful game

“No need for excuses,” quipped a fellow Anglo-Israeli on the phone, as I was attempting to explain why I was at Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Rishon Le’tzion (and thus couldn’t hear him). And Ron had not missed the irony. There was, indeed, a need for excuses!

While going to football in England is an Update status-worthy event – “At the Emirates,” “the Lane,” etc (though less, it must be said, “Elland Road”) are oft seen on Facebook – only the most secure will own up to attending games in Israel, or even to watching them on telly.

All of which makes it all the more curious that everyone here is up in arms about the mass brawl at Hapoel Ramat Gan vs. Bnei Lod on Friday afternoon (Haaretz), surely the most entertainment ever witnessed on an Israeli football pitch . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIFz0uf2I-o

I had been trying to tell Ron that, as the (not-so-proud) owner of a Maccabi Tel Aviv season ticket, I had no choice but to go to games. If there is some way of measuring such things, however, I am confident that the ticket represents one of the worst ever returns on 1,200 shekels (around two hundred pounds).

The excuse for my moment of madness was that I had just moved to within a few hundred metres of Bloomfield Stadium, the home of Tel Aviv’s biggest clubs, Hapoel and Maccabi (I chose the latter because I am forbidden from wearing red). And it is a measure of the wretchedness of the Israeli soccer experience – the football is crap, the officials are worse, and the spectators are largely odious, knowing nothing about The Beautiful Game – that, when I am at Bloomfield, I find myself daydreaming about wet, blustery evenings at Hendon FC.

“There’s only one Itzik Zohar . . .
one too many.”

While it is not only Israeli footballers who are knobs, they don’t have the excuse of the Bests, Gascoignes and Cantonas, or even of the Collymores, Di Canios and Balotellis, i.e., that they can play. Strutting, play-acting tossers and prima donnas like the ars’s ars, Itzik Zohar (right, now a TV pundit) – widely considered by Crystal Palace fans (this one, for instance) to be one of the club’s worst ever signings (no mean feat, I can tell you!) – and my own personal bête noire (having had to suffer him all season), Maccabi captain Barak Itzhaki, don’t have any such excuse.

What I have, however, gained from my season ticket is an understanding of why Israeli football fans leave piles of garinim (sunflower seed) shells on terrace floors – it gives them something to do for 90 minutes (I, too, have now adopted the custom) – and familiarity with a wide variety of Hebrew songs, from Mi shelo kofetz adom (Whoever doesn’t jump is red [i.e., Hapoel]) to Ima shelachem zona (Your mother is a whore), nearly all sung to the identical tune. Indeed, 90 minutes at Bloomfield makes a visit to the nearby Ramat Gan Safari entirely unnecessary.

“If they were at all capable of reflection, the monkeys who booed [Ran] Ben Shimon out [of Maccabi Tel Aviv] – following Saturday’s home defeat to Kiryat Shmona, ironically his former charge that got him his position – will come to regret their mindlessness. A 38-year old coach who, last season, took the relative nobodies from the northern border to 3rd place, in their very first season in the top flight, will obviously go on to greater things. His successor, Avi Nimni – however great a player for Maccabi – probably won’t.”

I published the above – in Ran Ben Shimon: A Deeper Malaise – on November 3, 2008. Earlier this month, Kiryat Shmona clinched its first ever championship – the first to be won by a club outside Israel’s three major cities in nearly 30 years – under Ben Shimon (who rejoined the club as coach in April 2009). And, no, Avi Nimni didn’t.

While it is poor taste to say “I told you so” (but I’ve started so I’ll finish), the malaise to which I referred in that second post to melchett mike was not just of players and fans, but of Israeli football as a whole. It starts at the very top, with Israeli Football Association chairman Avi Luzon (and family) – more dodgy than Ken Bates after a little tamper with the wheels of his Zimmer frame – and is encouraged by media coverage of the most moronic kind, giving Zohar, Eyal Berkovic and Eli Ohana, the dickheads of the “double pass,” free rein to puff up their already over-inflated egos (see Moti, you ain’t no Motty!)

. . . and there is only one "Special One."

Ohana (right) was wonderfully lampooned in a recent Yediot Aharonot article – showing that it is not only snooty English olim who are fed up with the know-it-all local football coverage – for his studio criticism of the tactics of Real Madrid coach, José Mourinho:

“As the inhabitants of Blah-Blah Land, we have got used to the idiotic nonsense of blabbermouth commentators, but there is a limit even to chutzpah. Sitting there is [Ohana] the coach of the Israeli youth team, the big shot who succeeded, in his last examination in the league, in relegating Kfar Saba to the second division – of a calibre that, even in the Maccabiah (against Jewish teenagers who looked more likely to win a bible quiz), had to make to do with the bronze medal – and he is giving a lecture on football to the coach who has won the Champions League twice, taken six domestic championships in three different countries, with a seventh in a fourth on the way. It is almost like [Israeli singer] Avihu Shabat criticising John Lennon or [comedian] Shahar Hasson slagging off Jerry Seinfeld.”

The bottom line is that most Israelis (including TV and media pundits), however much they love the game, don’t – for a reason that I cannot quite fathom – truly understand it (or, at least, not in the same way that we do). This was most apparent, yesterday evening, watching Barcelona vs. Chelsea with half a dozen natives, who were constantly whingeing about the West Londoners playing “boonker” (i.e., defensively). How exactly did they expect them to play, protecting a lead against Lionel Messi and Co. at the Nou Camp, with a place in the Champions League final at stake? With expansive football?!

Needless to say, I won’t be renewing my season ticket.

And there isn’t any proper cricket here, either. Still, there are the women. There is the weather, too. And the food. And golden memories of footballers who could both “mix it” and play . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8kxMnc5KUs

To all readers of melchett mike – whether Maccabi, Hapoel, or even Bnei Yehuda – happy barbecuing!

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Better a manyak than a sheep: some historical perspective re the “situation”

Can things possibly get any worse?

Viciously turned on by our only true friend in the region. The Palestinians on the verge of the unilateral declaration of statehood. Our own country divided and seemingly rudderless. And all of this under the spectre of the growing nuclear threat from Iran, with – perhaps most gallingly of all – not a word from the Israel-only bashers about the continuing human rights violations there, in Syria, and across the Arab and Muslim world . . .

Which might go some way to explaining why, as thousands streamed up Tel Aviv’s Ben Zion Boulevard towards the social justice rally, a fortnight ago, I – not untypically (I have always been a little davka) – walked alone in the opposite direction, to (the Dizengoff Centre and) the latest Woody Allen movie. After all, only an idiot, it seemed to me, would care about the rising cost of cottage cheese when we are in such an existential mess. (Joining the protest also seemed rather incongruous at a time that I was patting myself furiously on the back – you see, there are other things I do furiously! – for selling my Melchett home of 12 years, two blocks from Rothschild, just days before the tents went up.)

Then, Friday week ago, our Ambassador was forced to flee the new benevolent democracy next door (confirming my fears, expressed here just a week earlier), followed – on the Sunday, the tenth anniversary of 9/11 – by a Sky News studio guest summing up the decade since with “And there still isn’t a Palestinian state”: It was the Jews, of course, not Islamofascist knuckle draggers, who were really responsible for the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people on that horrible day.

Rather than allow the matzav (situation) to get me down, however, I have tried to view it as I always have: in the light of a history that has never been much better than miserable (though, to quote Alvy Singer, “life is divided up into the horrible and the miserable . . . so, when you go through life, you should be thankful that you’re miserable”).

By way of illustration (with the aid of a quick Google search), the following occurred on September 11, 1941, 70 years to the day before last Sunday:

  • The Jüdischer  Kulturbund (Cultural Federation of German Jews) was dissolved “for the protection of people and state.” (source)
  • All 91 Jewish patients at the Babinski Hospital in Kobierzyn (near Krakow) were moved to the Zofiowka Sanatorium in Otwock (near Warsaw), where some were shot and buried in the garden, with the remainder gassed in Treblinka. (source)
  • The following report (presented at the Eichmann trial) was written: “In Kamenets-Podolski [Ukraine], 23,400 Jews were killed by shooting within three days by the Group of the Senior Commander of the SS and the Police.” (source)

Complacent (primarily Diaspora, I believe) Jews who say that such things can never happen again have either never picked up a Jewish history book, or are too egotistical to see themselves as a mere dot in them. The calls from the radio of the Mavi Marmara, I would remind them, were “Go back to Auschwitz” and “Don’t forget 9/11.” They (and you fool yourself if you interpret the word narrowly) just don’t like us. That is the only feasible explanation for the obsession of the Israel-only bashers with Jews to the exclusion of all else.

70 years on from Auschwitz, however, we Jews are believed to be in possession of up to 400 nuclear weapons (source). And, kid yourselves not, the only reason that our Allah-loving enemies don’t attempt to finish off the Germans’ work is not any code of ethics, but the belief that the Jews really may have “second-strike” nuclear submarines.

As Ehud Barak spelt out last week, we Jews just can’t be f*cked with anymore: “They know very well why it’s not worth it for them to use chemical weapons . . . why it doesn’t pay for them to even think of using such weaponry against Israel.” (Haaretz)

Having moved to within three minutes’ walk of Bloomfield Stadium, home to all three Tel Aviv football clubs, I recently purchased a season ticket for Maccabi (who play in yellow; no self-respecting Leeds fan would dare be seen in red). And, at my first game, the guy seated behind me gave a crass course in Hebrew abuse: “Shofet, ya manyak ben zona (Referee, you crazy son of a whore)!” he yelled repeatedly, seemingly oblivious to the young son by his side.

At Israel’s subsequent Euro 2012 qualifier against Greece (also at Bloomfield), there were regular cries of “Milchama (war)!” And while I could understand why my friend, Nick, found them objectionable, I also thought: “How incredible that we Jews, not long ago history’s perennial victims, can finally shout stuff like that!”

If the Arabs are as stupid as some fear, or Ahmadinejad as reckless, there might still be another slaughter (heaven forbid). There will, however, this time, be no sheep. And we will take great numbers of the pathologically Jew-hating bastards down with us.

And that makes me, for one, through all of this bad news, feel a lot, lot better: Yes, it is great, for once, to be the manyak ben zona!

http://www.justgiving.com/mike-isaacson/

Accadia kerfuffle: Enough with this football mishigas!

Who says it is only working class goyim who fight on holiday? Or that only Catholics and Protestants mix religion, football and violence?

No. It is not only in sectarian Glasgow that they have Troubles . . . oy, have we got them too! And the tattle amongst Anglo-Jewish Passover holidaymakers in Israel this past week has been the fracas, during the North London derby, between English guests at the pricy Dan Accadia Hotel in genteel Herzliya Pituach (the cost of being a football hooligan has clearly gone up!)

According to melchett mike sources, the cause of the melee – during the course of which one hotel guest was punched in the face by another and then, in more typical North-West London Jewish hard man style, bitten (yes, bitten!) by his friend – was a disputed front row seat for Tottenham v Arsenal, shown on a big screen at the 5-star establishment, a few miles north of Tel Aviv.

English Passover guests in the Accadia pool room

One such source (or, rather, snitch . . . ex-Hasmo of course) says that the two assailants – at least one of whom he believes to be from Hampstead Garden Suburb, and “in property” – “behaved, and even looked, more like Tony Soprano and “Big Pussy” [appropriately for the biter] Bonpensiero than your typical Accadia clientele . . . even the French ones!”

Accadia security, more used to dealing with suspicious packages than lary Londoners, had to be summoned to calm matters, though tensions continued over the following days. (melchett mike would, naturally, welcome further eyewitness accounts [even anonymous] of the incident by comment below . . . for news purposes only, you understand.)

The standard response (after surprise, i.e., that the volume of food inevitably consumed by the pair had allowed one to throw a punch and the other to bite into anything else) of Anglos at ‘our’ hotel in Tel Aviv – to where the news had spread faster than a plague of locusts – was “What a disgrace!”

Even if such behaviour is rather untypical for your average Anglo-Jewish football fan, it is, nonetheless, unlikely to occur during a screening of the Ashes (cricket) or the Six Nations (rugby union); and it is endemic, for me, of the stupefying loss of all proportion exhibited by so many Anglo-Jewish males towards the game described by Hasmonean’s Legendary French master, not entirely unfairly, as “22 grown men chasing a pig’s bladder.”

In my childhood and youth, no one was more meshugge about football than me. I lived and breathed Leeds United, “going home and away” (including abroad) as soon as I could. But even though I still follow the club’s results keenly, and am founder and “El Presidente” – unelected and unimpeachable, Muammar Gaddafi-style – of the Tel Aviv Whites, I would like to think that, with age (and also, perhaps, time spent in Israel), I have gained some perspective. And it is not merely because I now live over 2,000 miles from Elland Road, or the equally indisputable fact that Leeds are now shite (they were throughout my youth).

Aside from the illusory escape from the mundane, the only thing of any value that my former obsession gave me was the ability, at law school, to memorize scores of cases by association: after all, if the litigants’ namesakes had not featured in the same mid-70s Derby side, how else would I ever have remembered Powell v Lee?!

These days, on coming into contact with Anglo-Jews still living in England – or even just seeing their Facebook updates – I cringe at, and am even sickened by, their all-consuming obsession with football, their seeming inability to discuss virtually anything else, and how they encourage the same in their (male, at least) children.

"Not now, Natalie . . . the footie's on!"

And, on my increasingly infrequent visits to Blighty, I am always flabbergasted at how the most banal snippets of information, on footballer-clients, from a players’ agent acquaintance can so enthral the rapt male audience to which he so conceitedly plays. No one would even notice, I always think to myself, were Natalie Portman to walk in and get her kit off.

I have also observed, on these visits, how even Orthodox rabbis now appear to believe that they will only gain congregant interest if they couch their sermons in football talk (or is it, rather, the only language that they think shul-goers will understand?)

My cousin recently returned from his own visit to London with the tale of how he had witnessed the son of Orthodox friends, in their Hendon back garden, mimicking his footballing hero by crossing himself (though without understanding the significance) every time he took a penalty kick!

My late father, a good sportsman, and uncle, by all accounts one of Irish Jewry’s all-time finest (their ability, tragically, skipped our generation), always instilled in us a sense of proportion when it came to sport (as mere spectator or fan, at any rate). And any thoughts I may have had of my favourite Leeds United player attending my bar mitzvah – as was once de rigueur amongst Anglo-Jews (photographs of proud 13-year-olds and sheepish-looking gentiles appeared in every week’s JC) – would have been swiftly, and rightly, pooh-poohed.

The standard of Israeli football (not to mention commentary) is, of course, very far from Premier League; though, to coin a popular Hebrewism, zeh mah she’yesh (literally, “this is what there is”). But the only folk who display any real enthusiasm for football here are market stallholders and their ilk. Indeed, most Israelis with any education to speak of would not dream of exposing their children to the aggression, racism and obscenities seen and heard in this country’s stadia . . . and it is far milder than that found in English grounds.

"Now where did I put those damn dentures?!"

Quite apart from anything else, obsessive following of English clubs, these days, is an exercise in idiocy: The professional game is now no more than Big Business and an ego trip for Russian oligarchs, Arab sheikhs, American tycoons, and – to my particular regret – dodgy wheeler-dealers (some may prefer malevolent old c*nts) like Ken Bates (above). And any loyalty once witnessed amongst footballers, now just a bunch of greedy mercenaries, is a thing of the very distant past.

So what exactly are we now supporting?

Perversely, however, many Anglo-Jews appear to show an even greater interest in football than they (and we, as children) ever did. And how many of them give even a tenth as much of their resources, time and energy to communal, Zionist, or, indeed, any social or charitable causes (i.e., things that really matter) as they do – in season tickets, Sky subscriptions, and related paraphernalia – to ‘their’ football clubs? (Or is it merely that there is a lot more to ‘escape’ from, these days?)

Before dismounting my high horse, to the idiots at the Accadia . . .

Next Passover (if they’ll have you back), you’d be better advised to take an evening tour of the Jewish Quarter (or such like) – we have real heroes here, you know! – or even one last waddle to the buffet than to disgrace yourselves . . . and all of us.

Moti, you ain’t no Motty!

Slimy, spurious psychics (see June’s Mook of the Month) aside, the hotly-contested title of Most Offensive Israeli, contrary to popular belief, does not go to the swindling taxi driver who besmirches all of his fellow countrymen within an hour of tourists landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

And, though I despise them with a passion, neither does it go to the HOT (cable company) customer disservice representative who cuts off callers – I am convinced deliberately – after keeping them on hold for 45 minutes.

Its recipient is not the arrogant American “settler” who should have done us all a favour and stayed, together with his ugly fanaticism, in Teaneck or Borough Park.

Neither is it the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox Jew) who gives little or nothing to the State but still believes that he has the right to dictate to all of us who do how we should live our lives.

And it does not even go to the Neanderthal beach predator in his Speedos (three sizes too small, naturally).

No, the title of Most Offensive Israeli goes to none of the above. And the toughest challenge of Aliyah is not, as is commonly thought, the lower salary, the stifling hot summers, or even the rudeness . . . it is having to suffer the Israeli TV sports commentator.

During Wimbledon fortnight, which ended yesterday, Sport 5 (Israeli cable TV) commentators appeared to feel compelled to employ every nonsensical cultural stereotype about the English . . . but got even those wrong. So, for instance, when Andy Murray’s fourth round match ended at 10:39 p.m. last Monday, we had to endure interminable silly references to the English spectators having to wait for their dinners of “kidney pie” (for those fortunate enough not to know, it is steak and kidney).

And those same commentators were remarkably incapable of distinguishing between spectators’ Englishness, Murray’s Scottishness, and all of their Britishness (for me, after being knocked out, Murray immediately reverted to “miserable Jock”).

Whilst his knowledge and understanding of his subject may be negligible, however, the Israeli sports commentator – like so many of his compatriots – delivers his ignorance with the conviction of the world-renowned authority.

Avi MellerI once, in a Tel Aviv pub, confronted Sport 5′s Avi Meller (right) – a self-proclaimed expert on English football (on the basis that he once, apparently, spent a couple of years in London) – for never mentioning Leeds United’s David Wetherall, then in his mid-twenties, without the epithet “ha’vatik” (the veteran). Meller said he was grateful to be corrected . . . and then continued as before.

Having grown up in a country steeped in sporting tradition (even if a losing one), I won’t deny that there is more than a little snobbery in my disdain for the local sports coverage. But what right do Israeli commentators have to refer to Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard, as they continually do, as “Stevie Gee”?!

Not for the Israeli sports commentator the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words”, nor the sacred rule – applied by the very best TV journalists and commentators the world over – of “Letting the pictures speak for themselves”. No, he prefers to speak (usually bollocks) for the pictures, with the result that many will only watch them with the sound turned down. Moreover, his predictions – which are, generally, ridiculously reactive to the toings and froings of a particular match – are invariably and uncannily wrong.

Israeli TV’s football studio pundits are even more insufferable than its commentators, the ex-pros having to be suffered most being the Arse’s Arse (Hebrew for medallion man) Itzik Zohar and that most arrogant of gobshites Eyal Berkovic.

Itzik ZoharZohar (left, during one of his eight [including four as substitute] appearances for Crystal Palace) has not let his “glassing”, last year, on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard – which left him requiring 52 stitches to his face – dent his formidable ego (many believe the unknown assailant to have been a vengeful boyfriend or husband).

Neither does Zohar’s ignominious inclusion in Crystal Palace fans’ all-time worst eleven – believe me, he had some competition! – prevent him from pontificating about Champions’ League football. Yes, this is the very same Itzik Zohar to whom Palace fans used to sing: “One Itzik Zohar. There’s only one Itzik Zohar. One Itzik Zohar. One too many.” When Crystal Palace fans sing that – and to one of their own – it is time to consider not only hanging up one’s boots . . . but also why one ever put them on in the first place.

Eyal BerkovicZohar, however,  is a positive breath of fresh air when sitting alongside Berkovic (right), who delights in publicly, spitefully rubbishing Israeli League players purely on the basis that they are not as good as he once was. Many Israelis’ fondest memory, however, of the career of Berkovic – who, as one of the country’s all-time great footballers, should have been a national treasure – is of the time his West Ham teammate John Hartson kicked him in the face during training. That the actions of the yobbish Welshman were understood by many here tells you everything you need to know about this odious little tosser.

Domestic football appeals, almost exclusively, to the lowest common denominator of Israeli society (see my second ever post on melchett mike: Ran Ben Shimon: A Deeper Malaise). And most of my fellow expat Brits regard it in much the same way that the former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly did his city rivals: “If Everton were playing down the bottom of my garden,” he memorably quipped, “I’d draw the curtains.” Rather more intelligent, professional coverage by the Israeli media, however, might change (if slowly) its public perception.

Modi Bar-OnThe glowing exception to the embarrassment that is Israeli television sport is the excellent, charismatic Sport 5 John Motsonpresenter Modi Bar-On (left), who would give even a Des Lynam or an Adrian Chiles a run for their money.

But, oh, what Israel would give for an Alan Hansen or a John Motson (right) . . . though, in these climes, “Motty” might have to do something about that sheepskin coat!

Ran Ben Shimon: A Deeper Malaise

The disgusting, shabby manner in which Ran Ben Shimon has been treated by Maccabi Tel Aviv (see Jerusalem Post article) is a symptom of a malaise not just in Israeli football (though it is hard to have a “malaise” in something so poor to start with), but in Israeli society too.

To be sacked as coach, yesterday, after a mere 8 games in charge – a record of 2 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats is no disgrace in one’s first season at a new club – is an example of the complete ignorance of the type of people who run the top clubs here and, more worryingly for Israeli society, the aggressive, moronic nature of many of the ‘supporters’.

If they were at all capable of reflection, the monkeys who booed Ben Shimon out – following Saturday’s home defeat to Kiryat Shmona, ironically his former charge that got him his position – will come to regret their mindlessness. A 38-year old coach who, last season, took the relative nobodies from the northern border to 3rd place, in their very first season in the top flight, will obviously go on to greater things. His successor, Avi Nimni – however great a player for Maccabi – probably won’t. And Maccabi’s management and fans will have only themselves to blame.

Much as I hate to refer to the man, it took Alex Ferguson over 3 years to turn around the fortunes of Manchester United . . . a lesson that Maccabi would have been well advised to consider.

Ben Shimon’s treatment is reminiscent of that meted out to numerous coaches before him in Israel, most embarrassingly – such treatment does nothing for this country’s already battered image – to Argentine World Cup winner, Osvaldo Ardiles. ‘Ossie’ was brought here to coach Betar Jerusalem 2 years ago, but was sacked after only a handful of games. Although he had failed as coach at Tottenham – they have had no less than 8 since Ardiles was sacked 14 years ago – he had enough experience and success as a coach in England for relative footballing paupers like Betar.

For a decent man like Ardiles, however, his sacking was a blessing in disguise. I had the misfortune, in the mid-90s, of witnessing Betar ‘supporters’ burn the national flag carried by a handful of quivering fans from Macedonia, following a Champions’ League preliminary round in Jerusalem.

Judging by the cretinous behaviour of many of the Maccabi ‘faithful’ on Saturday, you too, Ran, should be grateful.