Year's Biggest Soccer Game - on Holocaust Memorial Day Eve
Traditionally the highlight game of the Israeli soccer season, this year's Tel Aviv Derby will be played on April 26 – the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.
Traditionally, the Derby has been an event-filled game, both on the field and off. Soccer fans of the Hapoel and Maccabi teams, which compete in the intra-city championship game, take great pride in supporting their team, and denigrating the opposition, often in colorful and abusive language.
The date is chosen by lottery – and this year's lottery actually came up for April 27, Holocaust Memorial Day itself. After discussions between team and league leaders, it was decided to move the game back by one day, but observers complained that the antics of fans were enough to warrant canceling the game altogether, as it would badly compromise the spirit of unity Holocaust Memorial Day is supposed to inspire
In a recent game, for example, supporters of one team held up signs accusing fans of the other of belonging to the “Judenrat,” the infamous Jewish council that was forced to cooperate with the Nazis during the Holocaust. In other games, fans have used epithets like “Nazi” to describe opposing fans.
In addition, police said they preferred to move the location of the game, saying that the traditional venue, Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa, was set up in such a way as to make it very difficult to prevent fights and rioting. Heads of the Israeli soccer league said they preferred to conduct the game at Bloomfield, and on the day scheduled.