FARE Action Week got off to an eventful start in Israel on Sunday. A unique anti-racism event held by New Israel Fund's KIO Israel campaign in partnership with the Israel FA before MS Ashdod's Premier League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva was marred by the violent action of one spectator who ruined the evening for Israel's entire football community.
The focus of the pre-match and half time anti-racism events was the appearance of the players of Bnei Ichalel Rehovot, Israel's first schoolboy football club dedicated to children of Ethiopian immigrant families. The event was also supported by the Israel Police and the government's Sports Authority.
But ultimately headlines on the schoolboys' big day was stolen by an Ashdod fan who felled one of the referee's assistants in the final minute of the game when he threw an object onto the pitch. As a result the thrilling 3-3 encounter between Ashdod and Beer Sheva was abandoned. The behavior of the rogue Ashdod fan was particularly embarrassing for Ashdod who last year won the KIO/IFA Award for the country's fairest fans after not being involved in a single racist or violent incident.
The children of Bnei Ichalel Rehovot met with MS Ashdod owner Jackie Ben Zaken before the match and he recalled his own childhood in an immigrant family. Ben Zaken said,
I was once in your place and look where I am now. Believe in yourselves and maybe you will be good enough to play for Ashdod.
At half time Bnei Ichalel Rehovot played an exhibition match against the schoolboys of MS Ashdod. Before the match both teams came onto the pitch wearing KIO shirts together with the Ethiopian immigrant children who distributed anti-racism leaflets to the crowd. The club also hosted 250 Ethiopian immigrant children from Ashdod at the match.
NIF's Volunteers Observers Forum sent a report to the IFA on the incident which resulted in the match being abandoned and other misdemeanours by the crowd. The IFA is investigating the incident.
Action Week in Israel continues with a Hyde Park public speakers event about racism in football in Netanya on Saturday and a panel discussion on racism in football in Petach Tikvah with the participation of Arab and Jewish stars.