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Still, the F.A. does have a proven record on curbing racism, according to Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust, British Jewry’s anti-Semitism watchdog.
“In England of the 1980s, soccer stadiums became recruiting grounds for neo-Nazi groups, and members would regularly make racist and anti-Semitic chants,” Rich told JTA. That conduct “sometimes happens … [but has] largely disappeared from major English soccer matches.”
According to Rich, this has been achieved through a combination of F.A. action and the Kick It Out organization, which the F.A. helped establish in 1993. Focusing on preventing racism through education, Kick It Out organizes summer activities for children, workshops for soccer players and seminars for educators.
It also inspired Shanan’s Kick Racism Out of Israeli Football organization, which for the past decade has used Kick It Out tools with some local adaptations.
“One lesson we learned from England is to integrate Arab and Jewish children in one team instead of letting them play on opposite teams,” Shanan said.
As in Britain, Israeli soccer racism continues to be a problem despite the efforts of police and activists. The signing of two Chechen Muslims by Beitar Jerusalem this year led to the torching of the team’s trophy room. Last year, Beitar fans attacked several Arabs at Jerusalem’s Malha Mall.
Gerstenfeld, a Dutchman who moved to Jerusalem in 1968, acknowledges that racism exists in Israeli soccer, but is nothing compared to the violence endemic to British and Dutch soccer.
“I remember going to soccer matches as a boy in the Netherlands before racism and hooliganism set in,” he recalls. “Perhaps you need a psychiatrist to explain how it happened.”
Adam Green, a Londoner and Chelsea supporter in Amsterdam last week to watch his team battle Portugal’s Benfica in the Europa League final, offered a simpler distillation of the football hooligan’s credo.
“It’ll go fine if we win,” Green said. “But if we lose, you’re the enemy and we will burn this city the f*** down.”
Fortunately for Amsterdam, Chelsea defeated Benfica, 2-1.