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I cringed when I read the news on how Yossi Benayoun, an Israeli Chelsea football club player was jeered at by the crowd everytime he picked the ball during a friendly game with the Malaysian Olympics squad on 21 July 2011.It was not only embarrassing for the whole country but it is also not our culture to treat a guest in such a manner. He came to Malaysia to play soccer, for God’s sake. If you humiliate him for his race, then you’re practicing racism. He can’t help being a Jew owing to the accident of his birth. Just as you cannot help being born a Malay,Chinese or Indian in this country.

Yossi Benayoun

The behaviour of the large section of the fans has sparked accusations of racism being practiced in Malaysia by the international media. But to me the biggest element in play in that stadium was the herd mentality. A group of uneducated religious-centric hooligans started booing/jeering/sneering and everybody else just followed automatically or mechanically. Have you ever noticed the same phenomenon in a crowd? It only takes one person to start clapping at a speaker then everyone else would also clap spontaneously? Sometimes they don’t even know what they are clapping for.

It is a dangerous place and time to be in a large crowd especially when the atmosphere is charged with emotion. A little nice man can turn into a nasty hulk when encouraged by the mob. So-called charismatic leaders just love to be in a crowd. Hitler,Sukarno,Anwar Ibrahim(?), you name it, stirring up the crowd they did.

The ugly and unsporting behaviour of the fans spoke volumes about their ignorance. Remember the FIFA World Cup campaign in South Africa last year (2010)? “SAY NO TO RACISM“. As the world is becoming more globalized through technological advances, we Malaysians are still acting like “a frog under a coconut shell” (katak di bawah tempurung). Racism just doesn’t gel in the sporting world.

FIFA World Cup 2010 Campaign in South Africa

Many commentators have attributed the fans’ behaviour to the relentless “brain-washing” by the government-linked media on the Palestinian cause. Racism is not innate, it is nurtured by the environment and the government had better do something in steering the youth of this country to be more tolerant and better educated socially and not only academically. We should not hate the race for the action of a few (in this case the Zionists of Israel).

I had met and made friends with many good Jewish people when I was studying in London. In fact my late Professor who was Jewish was the only one who invited us to celebrate Yom Kippur annually in his house and no one had ever invited us for Christmas in their house. Prof Levine was instrumental in guiding me, an ethnic Malaysian, with my research unlike some other supervisors. I am eternally grateful and I can never hate his race, not ever.

My heart goes out to Yossi Benayoun for being jeered at in a foreign country, he has done nothing as a person to hurt our country and I really feel disappointed and deeply ashamed at the the mindless action of the so-called soccer fans. If these are the people who represent the leaders of tomorrow, we are in real trouble in the international arena. Our political leaders should wake up from their slumber to face up to this ugly truth.

And as for Benayoun, I hope he does not think that all Malaysians are in that despicable “xenophobic” category.

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One Comment

  1. I am appalled to read what Yossi was subjected to during a friendly match on Malaysian soil. Secondly, that incident has put Malaysia in a bad light. You are absolutely right that those Malaysians jeering at Yossi are the ones practicing racism and they don’t know it. Every now and then, it makes my blood boil to hear about anti-Semitism still existing in this day and age. Last but not least, I believe there are some good Malaysians out there who are disgusted at their fellow Malaysians who jeered at Yossi.


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