Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just A Friendly Game Of Basketball: Featuring the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

If it's one thing North American basketball fans have learned, it's that fans on the other side of the Atlantic are ten times more passionate and ten times as loyal. Known to sing songs throughout the game, heckle and even throw foreign objects, the professional basketball environment in Turkey took passion to a whole new level earlier this week.

With the recent invasion of Gaza by the Israeli military, Turkish fans turned up to jeer and protest the visiting Israeli squad Bnei Hasharon. Their passion didn't lie solely in support of hometown team Turk Telecom, but also in support of the civilians of Gaza who are bearing the brunt of the military attacks.

The game never even got a chance to get underway as the fans in the arena sent a barrage of shoes and coins at the visiting team during warm-ups. If not for the awareness of the Turkish police, the scene could have been much uglier as over 2,000 fans tried to rush onto the court. As local authorities held back the crowd the Bnei Hasharon team rushed back to their dressing room post haste. Meir Tapiro, Bnei Hasharon’s captain, described it as a "hunting scene, they wanted to hurt us."

After 1,000 policemen had cleared the hall, in a dark twist of the spirit of sport, the referees wanted to restart the game. The visitors refused, which meant an automatic defeat for the Israelis. Tapiro then spoke to someone from the Israeli embassy, “They told us that we should leave the country as soon as possible.” I'm wondering if the embassy was referring to leaving Turkey or Palestine?

For another perspective from one of my favourite journalists check out Dave Zirin's Edge of Sports story.

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