The #FansVsCovid19 initiative continues with another in focus look at what football fans across Europe and further are doing to support their communities through the pandemic.
In this feature, we look at Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem FC, and its efforts to help the people of Israel’s capital. Last month, we spoke to SD Europe Board Member and Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem FC Chair, Daphne Goldschmidt to find out what the club has been working on.
For those unfamiliar, “Katamon”, is a member-run football club playing in Israel’s second division; Liga Leumit. The club was founded in the mid-2000s by a group of disillusioned Hapoel Jerusalem FC fans. The new club was founded under the name “Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem”, carrying the identity of the original club over but distinguishing itself with the inclusion of “Katamon” being the area where the new club plays. Katamon has become the new nickname for the club as it signifies the new era for many fans.
Recently, the club has received international attention for its community work in Jerusalem, particularly for its Neighbourhoods Leagues programme, for which it received a €100,000 UEFA Foundation grant.
To begin, Daphne offered a summary of the situation in Jerusalem, “we’ve been on lockdown but we are allowed to go out for necessary things, but we are not allowed to go beyond 100 metres from your house, it’s been a month and half since we have been home under different forms of lockdown. Jerusalem is a complex city, it’s a poor city, people will be struggling.”
Daphne explained that to help its members through the difficult conditions, the football club has reached out to those who may need support. “We profiled our members into risk groups, we offered any help… it could have been groceries, it could have been going to the pharmacy, even going to the post office to pay a bill, a lot of people are still very old-fashioned. It’s such minor things, but it’s so beneficial for people that are stuck at home, but it had a very high impact, and we are still in touch with them, to see if they need anything at all.”
The football club’s members have also been assisting with food deliveries to those in need. “We connected ourselves to a local young movement in the city… they have a pretty big framework and have contact with community centres so basically they had us go into the communities where volunteerism is non-existent, so we got involved to help give out food, packages to the elderly and risk groups. It wasn’t the club directly, it was the members helping another organisation, it’s about trying to find a way as a community when you have numbers and a capacity, what is it that can be achieved… we had to think about how we could use the bigger capacity of volunteers and members that we have.”
The football club runs various community programs for children in Jerusalem which have had to stop because of the lockdown restrictions. To keep the children engaged, Katamon fundraised for 290 tablets for the children to use to take part in the programs from home. Daphne explained that for Katamon it is not just about helping, but finding innovative ways to help.“Children in east Jerusalem come from families with more children and they don’t have access to computers or tablets, so we understood that if we want to go online with our kids, with something that everyone has access to, we need tablets, it’s about mapping your community needs.”
Finally, when asked why the club felt the need to carry out these activities, Daphne replied “as football fans, our fans and volunteers are the owners of our football club and hold the destiny of our communities. For the past decade or so, since we existed, our sense of urgency has been towards Jerusalem, using football to force social change and create opportunities, and I think that this is the first time that we have this immense amount of power on the one hand, but on the other hand, a sense of urgency that is not local, it’s global. We can’t fix the world but we can strengthen our local community.
We are very good on the logistics because we have grown from 40 participants to 3,000 participants, so we have been training for this all along, which has given us the capability to be very adaptive, the benefit is this is just naturally what we would do… it’s a great privilege to show your power as a community beyond your community, not everyone has the opportunity to help, and football fans are about solidarity and doing it together, so how can we not be part of the solution. On the grass roots level, you can do so much. It’s not only pride for you as a football club fan or member to be associated with your club while doing so, it’s what you are doing for your club as a community.”
From Daphne’s responses it is difficult to conclude anything other than that Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem FC is a force for positive change within its city. As was the case with CAP Ciudad de Murcia, the active and willing participation of fans that is a fundamental pillar of member-run football clubs is unmistakably present in Katamon’s actions to help its community.