Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another rare glimpse – at the outcasts. As much as FIFA emphasized that football was and must be apolitical, politics always played significant role. South Africa and Israel were banned from international football and FIFA had no say in that, for both were expelled by their own continental federations – the first for apartheid, the second for anti-Arabism (to make it short). It was relatively easy call: Muslim and Black African states refused to play against Israel and South Africa and the acute crisis was resolved ‘mathematically’ – two coutries were less important than the whole. FIFA swallowed the decisions – otherwise there were not going to be African and Asian pariticipation and membership in the world football at all. And with that both countries sunk bellow the horizon – little news, if any, came from them. Outcast football lived, however. The scale was small and messy, but the sport existed. Israel had regular regular championship and national cup despite the wars with neighbours. Structurally, the Israeli development was so regimental, it was to make East Europe envious: clubs started as ideologically motivated and politically charged movements and it is easy even today to outline origins and persisting ties just by the names. There were and are 4 general names: Maccabi, Hapoel, Beitar, and Elitzur (Communist coutries provided larger variety of names than Israel). Maccabi started as Zionist sport movement, eventually linked to what passes for Liberal party in Israel. Hapoel was originally Socialist alternative, linked to the Labour Party. Beitar represents the right wing and Elitzur – the ultra-conservative religious variety. If you never heard of Elitzur, the reason is exactly because of what they represent: there are no Elitzur football clubs participating in the regular Israeli football, because it is played mostly on Sundays – on the prohibited Sabath. So Istaeli football is played by clubs from different cities, but with uniform names and depending who was governing the country one or another kind of clubs flourished or sunk. By mid-70s the rule of the Labour Party was somewhat replaced by the rivals and Hapoel fans were already looking nostalgically to the ‘golden years’ in the past – the 1950s. Hapoel (Haifa) won the Cup in 1974, which was rare success of the provincial club by that time. If anything approximating international fame was related to the club, it was Zlatko Cajkovski: the builder of great Bayern, of Beckenbauer and Muller, ended his own playing career in Haifa. ‘Cik’ played for Hapoel from 1958 to 1960 and moved to coaching.
There is nothing I can tell about the Sharks… not even their names, but here they are in their full glory:

Playing in red and white stripes, seemingly using permanent numbers US style (unless not having enough shorts and using whatever available).
As for stars, perhaps Eli Levental was one. Speaking of local stardom, of course, for hardly anybody heard of him outside Israel. Such is the fate of outcasts.