La Familia (Beitar supporters' group)

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La Familia are a football supporters' group of the Israeli Premier League club Beitar Jerusalem.[1] They are known for their opposition to Arab and Muslim players.

Organization[edit]

The organization began in 2005 and occupy the eastern sections of Teddy Stadium. Estimates of the group's numbers vary. A reporter put the number at a few hundred[2] while a leader of the group said that it encompassed a network of 3,000 supporters.[3] At a home match in 2008, a correspondent for the BBC said that the group was about 20% of the crowd. They are the most vocal in the stadium and some local fans follow their chants.[2][3]

La Familia is proud of its Jewish identity. The group is notorious for chants that insult Arab and black players, and for displaying the flag of the banned Kach party.[2] Cheers with lines such as "death to the Arabs"[4] and "Muhammad is a homosexual"[5] are common. Unlike other top clubs in the country, no Arabs have ever played for Beitar. La Familia has continuously raised strong objections to any Arab transfers.[6] The group was adamantly against the signing of a Nigerian Muslim (who lasted half a season in 2005) and the 2013 transfer of two Chechnyan Muslims.[7]

The team has roots in the Betar Zionist youth movement and has been supported by several Israeli politicians on the political right throughout its history. La Familia has similarly been labeled far-right and is openly against those they view as being on the left.[4][8] The club has publicly condemned the group and has gone as far as barring it from a match.[7] Some Beitar fans have expressed embarrassment over the organization and openly oppose their ideals.[9][7]

Incidents[edit]

During a December 2007 Toto Cup semi-final game between Beitar Jerusalem and the Israeli-Arab team Bnei Sakhnin, La Familia sang provocative chants insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Israel Football Association (IFA) punished Beitar by forcing them to play their next game against Sakhnin with no fans present. Vandals set fire to the IFA's offices and left graffiti threatening the life of the IFA chairman. The graffiti included the initials "LF" for La Familia, but the group denied involvement.[10][11]

Beitar was disciplined in 2008 after fans disrupted a minute of silence to mark the death of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Later that year La Familia led a pitch invasion in what would have been a title-clinching win against Bnei Herziliya. The IFA deducted two points from Beitar and ordered that the next game be played behind closed doors.[12] In December 2011, fans yelled "Give Toto a banana"[2] towards Nigerian-born Toto Tamuz. The IFA again punished Beitar with a two-point deduction and another game in an empty stadium.

Supporters stormed the Malha Mall after a match in March 2012 while chanting racist slurs. It was reported that Arab workers were harassed and beaten.[6] A few months later, a group of Beitar fans attacked a McDonald's where Arabs were among the staff.[13]

The club's 2013 signing of two Chechnyan Muslims, Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev, raised anger from the supporters. Members of La Familia set a team office on fire after the announcement.[7] Fans walked out of a match in March that saw Sadayev score his first goal for Beitar.[14]

In June, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were abducted and found murdered in the West Bank. It was speculated that members of La Familia were the perpetrators of a reprisal attack on a Palestinian youth. The incident lead to a breakout hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel's Operation Protective Edge.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Montague, James (2006-11-26). "How racism is holding back Arab footballers - Rockets, riots and rivalry". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d Heller, Aron (20 January 2012). "Israeli club paying price for racist fans". Associated Press. 
  3. ^ a b Goldblatt, David (23 April 2008). "Football and politics in the Holy City". BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Montague, (17 September 2012). "Football and the wall: The divided soccer community of Jerusalem". CNN. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Keret, Etgar (5 June 2011). "In Israel, a Soccer Game Reflects a Divide". The New York Times. p. MM24. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Prince-Gibson, Eetta (9 April 2012). "Jerusalem mall violence shines light on dark side of Israeli soccer". JTA. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d Barshad, Amos (19 March 2013). "How Soccer Explains Israel". Grantland. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Dorsey, James M. "Beitar Cross the Line - Again!". CleatBeat. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Moran, Dominic (25 August 2009). "Israeli Football: The Politics of Play". International Relations and Security Network. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  10. ^ Last, Jeremy (17 January 2008). "Vandals set fire to IFA offices. Police investigation launched after 'Betar fans' daub graffiti threatening Avi Luzon on walls". The Jerusalem Post. p. 12. 
  11. ^ Last, Jeremy (18 January 2008). "IFA remains defiant after arson". The Jerusalem Post. p. 12. 
  12. ^ Goldblatt, David (24 April 2008). "Football in the Holy Land". BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan (10 July 2014). "How Israeli soccer hooligans fanned flames of hate". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Dawber, Alistair (4 March 2013). "'It's not racism. The Muslim players just shouldn't be here': Beitar Jerusalem fans walk out over signing of two Muslim Chechen players". The Independent. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 

External links[edit]