Football commentator and former coach of Israel’s national soccer team Shlomo Sharaf has been suspended from the Sport 5 channel, after making racist remarks toward Panamanian Maccabi Petah Tikva player Abdiel Arroryo while commentating a live match, saying he should be deported, and “go eat bananas.”
שלמה שרף: “אגואיסט הייתי שולח אותו הביתה”
יונתן כהן: “הוא בא מפנמה”
שלמה שרף: “פנמה, שילך לאכול בננות”
— MrTalHarosh (@mrtalharosh) October 31, 2020
The incident took place during an Israel Premier League game between Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Haifa. Striker Abdiel Arroyo, a foreign player from Panama, entered the game near the end of the second half, and a few minutes later found himself in a shooting position in front of Haifa’s goal, but missed his eventual strike.
In response to the miss, Sharaf issued the remark: “He should go eat bananas; I would put him on the plane and deport him right now.”
The incident drew a slew of condemnations from politicians to sports personalities and Sharaf was suspended by the channel shortly thereafter.
Immigration and Aliyah Minister Pnina Temano Shata said in response to the incident that “Sharaf is still stuck in the 1950s, a dark time full of racism in the world. Mr. Sharaf, you have finished your job, a racist like you has no place in the front of the Israeli stage or any other stage.”
Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper also commented on Sharaf’s words, saying “Incidents of racism must be clearly addressed. Shlomo Sharaf’s statement is inappropriate and has no place in Israeli sports, and society in general. Sports 5 did the right thing when they decided to suspend Sharaf. Together we will keep sports a place for everyone, regardless of religion, race or gender.”
The Football Association said it was “disgusted” in response to the remarks, saying that “it’s 2020 and we find it especially disturbing that there are those who allow themselves to sin with such an abusive, insulting and shameful statement. The disgusting scent that emerges from Sharaf’s statement requires a severe punishment and public condemnation.”
The IPFL also reacted to the incident, saying “we take Shlomo Sharaf’s ugly and racist statement very seriously and we will not let it pass in silence. We will work with the concessionaire to complete a significant disciplinary procedure against him. We will not allow anyone to harm players based on their religion, race or origin.”
THE FOOTBALL Players’ Association said in a statement that “Shlomo Sharaf today exhibited a racist remark meant to humiliate and express contempt for a player solely because of his skin color. No one has the right to be a racist, especially not someone who regularly broadcasts on television.”
Former Israeli footballer and current lower league coach, Ofer Talker, reacted to the incident with a Sharaf story of his own.
“The older people here probably remember that Shlomo Sharf sent me to “go bag groceries” when he was asked how a leading player like Talker isn’t on the national team… I didn’t take it too hard; a month later I was in the national squad. That’s Shlomo, ” he wrote.
“His statement was racist but not his intent, it was a miserable slip of the tongue. Come on Shlomo, apologize and move on, there are more important things to deal with,” Talker added.
Sharaf has found himself in hot water for making racist remarks several times over the years.
Most notably, in 2007, Sharaf told a reporter about former Hapoel Tel Aviv player Ibazito Ogabuna: “The way he looks, they should put him in a cage and send him back to Nigeria.”
Ma’ariv at the time reported that Sharaf, who had been deriding Ogabuna for his performance that season, made the comment after a game in which the player made a throat-slitting gesture to the camera after scoring a goal.
With Hapoel Tel Aviv then accusing Scharf of racism, Ma’ariv asked Sharaf about his comment, and back then he replied that “my remarks were made in reaction to the rude, threatening gesture Ogabuna made, which was aimed at me. As far as I’m concerned, that’s considered a death threat… Whoever misunderstood me and interpreted my remarks as being racist, proves himself to be a racist.”
At the time, Sharaf suffered no consequences for his statement from either Sport 5 or his other employer, Channel 10 and continued to commentate matches.
Sharaf has coached several teams in Israel, serving as the national team’s longest running coach, from 1992-1997.
Larry Derfner contributed to this report.