Kornfein: "Umm al-Fahm will come to commit provocation"
Itzik Kornfein will ask the tribunal that the crowdless game that is expected to be imposed on Beitar will be as soon as tonight's Israel Cup match. Avi Luzon has warned: "You don't understand what is about to transpire. UEFA and FIFA are strong into this story."
By Yaniv Tuchman, nrg/Maariv
Itzik Kornfein will show up today at 11 am at the [Israeli Football] Federation tribunal and ask that Beitar Jerusalem's game tonight at 7 pm against Macabbee Umm al-Fahm within the [Israel] Cup tournament be held without a crowd. The Federation will not object to this request, and the judge, Emanuel Sela, will have to decide whether to accept it.
Midday yesterday, Kornfein, accompanied by board of directors members Israel Goldschmidt and Momi Dahan, arrived at the Federation offices. The Chair [of the board] asked for [Federation] chairperson Avi Luzon's support regarding the events expected following the upcoming signing of the Muslim players from Chechnya.
Also present in the meeting were other senior officials in the Federation, and they all had objectionable things to say about the events of last Saturday at Teddy Stadium. "Yu don't understand what's going to happen," we're Luzon's opening words. "UEFA and FIFA are strong into this story. They're aware of everything (probably also because of the letter sent by MK Ahmed Tibi – Y.T.) and they will not give up. If this business in the bleachers continues, Beitar will have it, and have it hard."
Kornfein clarified that the top officials of Beitar, as well as tens of thousands of its fans oppose what had happened on Saturday, and that he is willing to take any dramatic step to combat this phenomenon. Subsequently, the idea of clearing the bleachers of fans altogether came up, and the Federation did not voice any objection to it.
"We'll have to recruit all of the good fans"
"We aren't trying to sweep the problem [under the rug]," Kornfein said last night. "It won't be over tonight. In a week and a half we have a home game against Sakhnin, and there, too, there will be an explosive atmosphere. It is better if the game without a crowd, which will inevitably will be imposed upon us by the tribunal, should be against Umm al-Fahm, so that we would have enough time to prepare for the other games that follow it. We will need the cooperation of all factors in order to combat the people who may bring a disaster upon Beitar."
Are you really that afraid of the game against Umm al-Fahm?
"Over the last two days all we've been hearing is that the people of Umm al-Fahm have been threatening to get off the pitch as soon as they'll be cursed at. I'm afraid that there will be an attempt at a provocation which will critically harm Beitar. Where on earth has it been heard that a team sends letters the night before a game threatening to take its players off the pitch if they're cursed at on a racist basis? I'm afraid that as soon as one curse is heard, they'll get off the pitch and incite a storm of international scale."
"My sense is that Umm al-Fahm will come to this game with the goal of committing this provocation, and after that we would not be able to get out of it. I understand that they have sold tickets, and perhaps they thought they might make a profit at Teddy, because in Cup matches the teams split the revenues, which is why we are also willing to grant them a symbolic monetary compensation.
Assuming the judge accepts your request, what will happen next?
"We will have to recruit all of our good fans to help us. We will need the police. We don't intend to fold with respect to hiring the Chechnyan players. There are 500 fans here who hold the entire club as hostages. A few hundreds who hold tens of maybe hundreds of thousands of thousands hostages, who understand that we cannot keep on living like this."
"Beitar has been fighting racism for a long time now, and with some success. The fans' association is with us, and since Saturday we've been getting thousands of messages from fans asking us not to give up. Our fans must realize that this is no longer a game. It's not a laughing matter. The senior institutions in world football will punish us severely. When that comes, nobody will be ale to say we haven't been forewarned."
Beitar will be playing tonight with a partial lineup. Shai Hadad is injured and will be replaced by Eli Dassa. Dario Fernandez was yellowed out and Barak Moshe will take his place. Avi Reikai isn't totally fit, so Steven Cohen is set to play in his stead. It seems at if some of the Beitar players won't oppose a game with no crowd. "What happened against Bney Yehuda is intolerable," one player said last night. "It's awful to play when half of the fans are cursing on the basis of race."