Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Palestinian Soccer Team Lifts Pride with Leap into Israel's Top League

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Palestinian Soccer Team Lifts Pride with Leap into Israel's Top League

Article excerpt

The sun is sinking quickly, and in the dim light, the soccer team struggles to get in a few more minutes of practice time. Finally, when even the white ball is undiscernible, the coach called his players off the field.

"Lights, you know? Lights would make things a lot easier," says Abed Haj-Yahiyyah, shaking his head and walking down the field to praise the team for its hard work.

Lights, and perhaps some turf on the field. And an access road, and some bleachers - the Hapoel Taybeh soccer team could use quite a few things. This run-down stadium at the end of a mud track through a garbage dump is hardly a worthy setting for a team that's in the Israeli National League. But for a team that's got as much going against it as Taybeh, with woes from the financial to the fanatic, the dilapidated club grounds seem somehow fitting. Taybeh (pronounced TAI-bay) is the first Arab team to make the National League in Israel. "We make our people proud," says Mr. Haj-Yahiyyah, president and general manager of the club. Palestinians make up about 20 percent of the population of Israel, and they are the poorest group, with an average income half that of Jewish Israelis. The town of Taybeh, for example, has few paved streets, and many areas lack electric service. "As a minority in Israel, for us to be in the National League, it shows we are equal, that we can reach every position in this country," Haj-Yahiyyah says. There was euphoria in Palestinian-Israeli communities last spring at news that Taybeh would be bumped up to the top league, although players thought they might get a frosty reception. But Capt. Auda Bahjat says he never expected this: When he faced off against the captain of the league's top team in Jerusalem, his opponent had a vicious greeting waiting for him. "He looked me in the eye," recalls Mr. Bahjat, "and he said 'You should have been in the mosque when Baruch Goldstein started shooting. I'm sorry he didn't kill you, too.' " Baruch Goldstein was an Israeli who killed 29 Palestinians in a mosque in Hebron in 1994. The player who invoked him, Eli Ohana, heads the Beitar Jerusalem team, which is affiliated with the hard-line Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.