Fans back Jerusalem

By Simon Griver, July 17, 2008

Betar Jerusalem look set to ignore police advice and send supporters to the second leg of their second round Champions League qualifier against Wisla Krakow in Poland on August 6.

The Israeli champions had been warned against allowing fans to the home of a club whose fanatical supporters have a history for being violent and antisemitic.

But officials from Betar have instead urged high numbers to travel. “We would not want our fans to be scared to travel anywhere,” said Betar spokesman Oded Zargari. “There is antisemitism around European football but we have full confidence that the Polish police will protect our fans.”

A glance at the fans forum on Krakow’s official site showed ugly antisemitic caricatures and statements, although the club was quick to remove them.

The antisemitism of the Polish champion’s supporters is rooted in the country’s history. Wisla’s cross-city rivals MKS Cracovia Krakow was traditionally the team supported by the city’s Jewish community which was 60,000 strong in 1939 but almost entirely wiped out in the Holocaust.

Even though MKS today has no Jewish supporters, the hardcore fans call themselves the ‘Jude Gang’ like Ajax Amsterdam’s ‘Joden Army’ this provokes antisemitic hostility from rivals.

Betar fans are renowned for their extreme views. But Zargeri insists  Wisla’s supporters will be welcome in Israel and need have no fears, though it is unlikely that many Polish fans will be able to afford the round trip for the first leg. .

Last updated: 11:17am, July 17 2008