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Jewish-backed Argentinian soccer club takes title

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — A professional Argentinian soccer club founded more than a century ago in a Jewish neighborhood won its league championship. 

The soccer club Atlanta, founded in 1904 in Villa Crespo, over the weekend won the championship of the third tier Soccer League B organized by the Argentine Football Association. The team is associated with the Jewish community due to the historical support of Jewish fans.

Atlanta features several Jewish players as well as members of its administrative staff. 

The May 7 victory means the team will be promoted to the second tier of Argentine football for the 2011-12 season. This is the last step before playing in the Premier A League of Argentine soccer. 

Several fans watching the championship game wore Maccabi Tel Aviv shirts, which bear the same blue and yellow colors of the Atlanta team. The team stadium is named for Leon Kolbovsky in honor of the Jewish immigrant, Pole and communist who helped develop the club.

In 1963 Atlanta became the first Argentine team to visit Israel, where it played and won against the Israel national team. It was the first Argentinian soccer club performance in the Jewish state and also Atlanta’s first meeting against a foreign national team.

The Atlanta playing field once hosted the annual celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, in Argentina until the terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires in July 1994. The open space then was banned to the crowded celebrations for security reasons.

In February 2000 one of the team’s main rivals greeted the team with Nazi flags, throwing soap in the field while singing “with the Jews we make soap." The poor behavior led to the national football association establishing rules requiring the referee to end or suspend a match due to racist expressions.

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