People who until recently (may have) sat side by side in the coffee shop, eating, drinking, talking, exchanging jokes. Friends, colleagues, neighbors. They no longer dare or want to look at each other. They became strangers in a day. Enemies. The Israel War – Hamaslike any war, is a humanitarian drama with many acts.
It wasn’t anything great, but it was “something”. Small centers of coexistence of Jews and Arabs. A source of hope, a certain proof that “yes, it is possible”. Unfortunately, the tragic events of the last few days in this historically long-suffering region sweep away even these few commonalities. In all areas of social life. Football could not escape unscathed…
Until a few weeks ago, Mr Dia Saba, was one of the stars of Maccabi Haifa, one of the favorites of the platform. Protagonist in winning last year’s title (in the second half of the season when he was added to the roster). Among the leaders in a very good European course that may not have led to the groups of the Champions League, but also his counterparts Europa League only small consolation it was not.
The “Greens” are Israel’s historically and traditionally distinct group due to its mixed character. It is the exact opposite of Beitar Jerusalemwhich, in its 87-year history, has never had an Arab player on its roster, and its die-hard fans are proud of it – “forever clean” is their motto.
No distinction therefore exists in the Maccabi Haifa roster. Everyone is welcome. Jews (obviously), Arabs, Christians and Druze (a special and strongly unruly ethnic group of the region, with a peculiar religion and social organization). Both because of its geographical location and because historically it is an ethnically diverse city.
“A completely improbable symbol of coexistence,” wrote Haaretz just last August, in an article about the team that is among its rivals Panathinaikou in the Europa League. After all, the 0-0 against “Triphylli” (on 5/10) it is the last time match for Maccabi Haifa, since then he has not played again. Dia Saba played until the 68th minute of that match. Everything shows that this will be his last match with this shirt…
And yet, until recently the 30-year-old striker was the ultimate symbol of success of the diversity character of the so-called “Greens”. A Palestinian, a citizen of Israel, who was worshiped by the Jews in the vast majority of their followers, who passionately sang his name. International in fact 11 times with the Israel Men’s National Team and another 9 times with the U21. And then came the war. To turn everything upside down. To destroy with his poison everything good that flourished in the place.
One reason was enough. It came, a few days after hostilities began, through a comment made by Saba’s wife, Narminon Instagram. Thus wanting to express her fear and anguish over the loss of innocent citizens in Gaza during Israel’s retaliation to the Hamas attack. He wasn’t saying anything unreasonable. More than 5,000 people have lost their lives as a result of these bombings. “There are also children in Gaza…” he wrote.
What was wrong with that? It was one sided. Immediately, Maccabi fans “fell” her wildly on Dia Samba. Why didn’t he publicly condemn the Hamas attack or add it to his wife’s post? Does he think that the lives of Palestinians are more important than those of Israelis? Of the 1,400 dead in Israel, at least 44 were Haifa fans, some pointed out.
It wasn’t just fans who reacted, not just on social media. Veteran players have also gone public asking the management to never allow the player to wear the club’s shirt again. “Let him go to Turkey or Qatar, they will welcome him. Here he is unwelcome,” said the veteran legend of the club. Yaniv Katan.
A few days after the controversial post and the outcry, Dia Samba publicly apologized through his own Instagram account: “He thought he was conveying a message of reconciliation and peace. He did it in good faith, but he was wrong and for that I am sorry,” he wrote, wanting to justify his wife, but also to protect himself.
Except the damage was already done. Many Haifa fans are urging the team’s management to release him immediately, many had definitively and irrevocably classified him as a Hamas supporter.
Can he turn the paper over? Practically impossible. The moments are highly sensitive and critical, the spirits tense as never before. Cool voices cannot be heard in an environment of bigotry, in extreme conditions of polarization.
From the club and now they are trying to buy time, to turn the interest to support actions of the community and the soldiers. But in reality Dia Saba has no other future at Maccabi Haifa.
He was left out of the mission on Thursday (9/11) against Villarreal, in Larnaca, since the return to action of the Greens after a month of forced inactivity. In January he will leave, it has been decided. Even if his contract runs until 2026. He cannot continue having become a foreign body and a red flag for the fans of his own team.
And let’s not all be the same. Even if the generalizations lead to wrong conclusions. Something he tried to recommend as a message o Mohammad Abu Fani. Also a Palestinian soccer player who holds Israeli citizenship. Having played for a number of years in Maccabi Haifa and in the national team of Israelsaid he is tired of Arabs being asked to condemn the events as if they were somehow to blame for what some of their own people are doing.
He credits him for finding the courage and strength to send a message of unity even though he himself has suffered in the past because of the general situation. How to forget games where his compatriots called him a “terrorist” every time he touched the ball despite wearing the crest? And yet, he does not hold a grudge, nor does he allow it to poison him as a thought.
One way or another, the pressure exerted on these players, the Israelis of Palestinian origin, is enormous. Against their will they are caught in the middle. Whatever they say can be used against them. The same goes for what they don’t say, that is, if they choose the path of silence – this is often considered complicity.