TEL AVIV (May. 17)
Israel’s national soccer team beat the Soviet Union’s team 3-2, before 45,000 spectators in a friendly international match at Ramat Gan Stadium on Wednesday night.
It was the first time the two teams had met since 1956, when the Russians trounced the Israelis.
But if revenge was sweet, the game at Ramat Gan was only a sideshow.
The real passion of the fans was directed against three Israeli football superstars, who declined to play because they claimed they were inadequately insured against injuries.
Ronnie Rosenthal, only a week ago an idol of the crowd, was greeted with jeers and pelted with bottles when he took to the field before the game to explain why he wasn’t playing.
His colleagues, Eli Ohana and Shalom Tikva, remained under cover but were equally targets of obloquy. The Soviets, on the other hand, were cheered by the disgruntled fans.
Rosenthal told reporters later that if he or the other two international stars were injured in the game, they could face suspension by the European teams for inability to fulfill their lucrative contracts.
But a federation official who ordered Rosenthal off the field commented, “We play football here, not explain how much we are worth.”