Israeli audience won’t tolerate national team player for sex scandal with minors

Opinion: By calling him up against Albania, national soccer association decided to let Omer Atzili get off scot-free, but the fans in the stands made their discontent loud and clear

Guy Leiba|
On Saturday, during Israel's 2-1 win over Albania in the UEFA Nations League, Israeli national soccer team attacker Omer Atzili received boos and jeers from the local crowd for wearing the national colors despite his involvement in a sex scandal with 15-year-olds alongside a fellow soccer player.
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  • Two years after the affair made headlines, this was the first time the Israeli audience showed Atzili what it actually felt about him and his sexcapades.
    3 View gallery
    עומר אצילי שחקן נבחרת ישראל
    עומר אצילי שחקן נבחרת ישראל
    Omer Atzili
    (Photo: Oz Mualem)
    It also should be noted that no charges were filed against him or his Maccabi Tel Aviv teammate at the time Dor Micha.
    In their protest, the audience proved how detached Israeli soccer is from public opinion. To say Atzili's call-up to play for the national team is a "controversial move" would be an understatement.
    I can wholly assure you that if a poll was conducted on whether he should play for the national team, most Israelis would oppose it, and say he doesn't deserve to don the national team kit.
    Government ministers were also not shy to excoriate the national team and Atzili's call-up. And they wouldn't have stuck their necks out had they thought it was a controversial take. Even on social media, many fans rejected his squad call-up, along with a handful of fans who defended him. Allowing him to wear the blue and white kit is a stain on the national team.
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    עומר אצילי שחקן נבחרת ישראל
    עומר אצילי שחקן נבחרת ישראל
    Omer Atzili substituted on against Albania
    (Photo: Oz Mualem)
    This fiasco has to be amended, and if the higher-ups at the national soccer association can't see it, the crowd will show them. Because Omer Atzili doesn't deserve to get off with what he has done.
    When the national team calls you up to play and represent it, the message it gives is that it is ok to sleep with underage girls, not even apologize for that, and move on with life; that it is acceptable to use your status as a prominent soccer star because apparently, you are above everyone else.
    The national team has renounced its values and its right to be a consensus that the entire Israeli public can wholly back.
    The national team chose the wrong side, even after the players' sleazy correspondence with girls leaked to the media. The texts revealed another disturbing side to this terrible affair — the players have also taken drugs with the 15-year-olds, allegedly.
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    A banner saying 'Atzili doesn't represent me'
    A banner saying 'Atzili doesn't represent me'
    A banner saying 'Atzili doesn't represent me'
    Nevertheless, Israeli soccer, as well as sports media, continued to embrace the two.
    At last night's match, the commentators said that "part of the crowd cheers, while some boo", although the contempt of a vast majority of the fans in the stands was heard loud and clear. The commentators mostly ignored the incident and focused on the game.
    The fans reject this bear hug, they reject letting a player involved in such a scandal wear the national team jersey and represent Israel. They believe he doesn't deserve this honor, although he is one of Israel's best players, and although he was picked as the player of the season.
    This rejection should be a wake-up call for the national soccer association to think twice before calling Atzili up for the next match.
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