Hakimi and the whistles, revealers of heat stroke in the Middle East?

Hakimi and the whistles, revealers of heat stroke in the Middle East?

Achraf Hakimi could not cut the matter, on Saturday after the small Parisian victory over Brest in L1 (1-0) and four days before the match on the grass of Maccabi Haifa, in the Champions League. During the two Champions Trophies won by Paris Saint-Germain in Israel, on July 31 against Nantes (4-0) and a year before against Lille (0-1), the Moroccan international received loud whistles at Bloomfield Stadium from Tel-Aviv.

His critics made him pay for a tweet published in May 2021, in which the former Inter Milan right-back wrote “#FreePalestine” at a time of heightened tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So are you worried about a similar fate this Wednesday in Haifa? “I’m going to make the trip with the team,” Hakimi launched in the mixed zone of the Parc des Princes. It’s no problem for me, I’ll play and go home. Internally, PSG adopt the same attitude, and have not provided a personal bodyguard, for example, unlike the Champions Trophy.

“A Quite Exceptional Event”

A way to minimize the possible hostile reception of a traditionally seething Sammy-Ofer stadium that will be packed with more than 30,000 spectators, including the 1,500 Parisian fans expected in the visitors’ parking lot. We write “possible”, because according to Kévin Veyssière, “the whistles against Hakimi during this match were a rather exceptional event”.

For the founder of the remarkable site FC Geopolitics, everything is necessarily a matter of context. “In Tel Aviv, there were beeps because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was restarting at that time, and it is always one of the first cities affected when there is a resumption of high-intensity conflict,” deciphers the former parliamentary collaborator, who is developing his activity as a consultant in the geopolitics of sport.

“Haifa is further north, more diverse and more open,” he continues. And then the Champions Trophy was a gala match, with no bets for the Israelis in the stands. This time, the fans will be more to cheer on their team than to whistle the opponent. »

Maccabi Haifa fans during Feyenoord Rotterdam’s reception at the Sammy-Ofer Stadium, on September 14, 2021 at the Europa League Conference. – Ahmad Mora / DeFodi Images / Sipa

Talking about the fervor of the public is not a simple language when talking about Maccabi Haifa, capable of attracting 3,000 fans despite the distance and the price of the trip during the opening of the C1, on September 6 in Lisbon (win from Benfica, 2-0). “It is one of the most popular teams in the country, and obviously, because of the population of the city [280.000 habitants, dont environ 20 % d’Arabes israéliens]he has a lot of Arab fans,” confirms Omer Einhorn.

The 33-year-old dentist, who now resides in Tel Aviv, is a fan of the Greens, who have captured their 13th and 14th national titles in the last two seasons (only Hapoel Tel-Aviv does better with 25 titles). “Sammy-Ofer is the best stadium in the country, without a doubt,” continues the thirty-something Israeli. The fans are really exceptional, but politics is not our thing. »

“I am not very optimistic”

And yet, unlike Kévin Veyssière, Omer Einhorn is not ruling out a hostile reception reserved for Hakimi. “I have not read anything specific about it, but it is certainly possible that he will be booed,” judges him, who also hosts a podcast about soccer with friends. Michael Vincendet, who officiates at the Sport 5 channel, holder of the C1 rights in Israel, also fears some beeps. But he insists that Maccabi Haifa supporters do not see his stadium as a political platform.

“It is not like that at all, assures this perfect Francophone. The political derby is Hapoel Tel-Aviv [marqué à gauche, « Hapoël » signifiant « ouvrier » en hébreu] against Beitar Jerusalem [connu pour ses fans proches de la droite nationaliste]especially at election time. This is truly one of the best matches. »

On the Sammy-Ofer stadium side, it’s also hot, but when it comes to pushing behind fellow Frenchmen Pierre Cornud and Dylan Batubinsika (trained at PSG for the record). “He has been crazy for several years, even when the club had difficult years, eight or nine years ago,” says Michael Vincendet. With the green shirts, he also remembers Saint-Etienne. All Europe will discover this fervour. »

Maccabi fans support Jewish and Arab Israeli players like this Mohammed Abu Fani or Mahmoud Jaber (currently injured). “The top scorer in the club’s history is Zahi Armeli. [un Arabe chrétien] in the years 1980-90”, continues the journalist, who will be present on Wednesday night at the reunion with PSG, 24 years after the Parisian elimination in the Coupe des Coupes.

“The championship is more and more open, but it is true in both directions, judge Kévin Veyssière, of FC Geopolitics. In 2020, Diaa Sabia became the first Israeli footballer to play in an Arab league, at Al-Nasr. [club de Dubaï]. This event came to materialize the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, in particular with the Abraham Accords. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have recognized Israel. It is ongoing with Sudan and Morocco, and even with Saudi Arabia, relations are heating up because finally these countries have realized that they have a common enemy in the region, ‘Iran’. »

That doesn’t always prevent incidents in Israeli stadiums including in Haifa, where Munas Dabbur was booed just a year ago when he scored and helped lead the team to victory over Austria (5-2) in World Cup qualifying. The Israeli Arab striker, who retired from international service last July, published a message in May 2021 condemning the Israeli army’s incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, during the same outbreak of violence that had prompted a reaction to Hakimi.

Lionel Messi in the eye of the storm in 2018

“As soon as the conflict flares up, this issue also comes to the fore in football because it is the sport with the most media coverage and the most popular,” observes Kévin Veyssière. The cancellation under Palestinian pressure of the Israel-Argentina friendly match in June 2018 perfectly illustrates these statements, while the tension in the region had increased several degrees six months after the death of a hundred Palestinians killed by Tsahal in the Gaza Strip. .

Due to his popularity, Lionel Messi unfortunately found himself in the eye of the storm. To put pressure on Argentina, the president of the Palestinian soccer federation had asked the PSG star, then at Barça, “not to participate in the laundering of the crimes of the occupation. [israélienne] “, under penalty of “burning” the Flea shirts. There was no such threat this time for Hakimi.

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