Israel is set to host the UEFA Under-21 Championship this month. The celebrations kicked off — if you’ll pardon the pun — today in Jerusalem when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Israel’s national under-21 football team, where he was gifted with a monogrammed team jersey and an autographed ball.
Jerusalem, a city of die-hard football fans, decided to honor the Championship with an unusual outdoor photo exhibition that opened today in the presence of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in the Mahane Yehuda open market. After all, where better to celebrate the traditions of rivals Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Jerusalem, and its offshoot Hapoel Katamon?
13 professional photographers were engaged to document Jerualem’s most outstanding players from the past, as well as the stars of the future. The resulting exhibition, “Black Red Yellow”, comprises 22 portraits printed baseball-card style on banners lining Agrippas Street and the market itself.
This presents an opportunity for us to see how these stars looked when they were in their prime and to learn something about Israel’s football legends.
Peruvian-born Dr. Raul Geller, for example, joined Beitar in the mid-1960s, was its star player in the 1966-67 season and is ranked as Betar’s third top scorer of all time after Uri Malmilian and Eli Ohana. And yes, he really is an orthopedic surgeon.
Photographer Elad Barami said of his encounter with Geller, “I was pleased to discover a happy person with a wide range of successes — professional football player, excellent tennis player and a doctor. You don’t see this combination every day.”
Uri Mamilian is considered one the best Israeli players ever. Photographer Omri Barel decided to take the Mahane Yehuda vendor cry, ‘Every apple is a Malmilian‘, (meaning that every apple is of the very best quality), and create a literal portrait of the man and his namesakes.
Eli Ohana, now manager of the Israel national under-19 team, is considered to be one of the greatest Israeli players ever. Photographer Edith Wagner stated that she wanted to create a dramatic and direct portrait. “I looked for a background having to do with Beitar but not necessarily just yellow-black, but regal, so I chose a bee hive.”
Ali Ottman was the first Israeli Arab to make a first division team, and the first Israeli Arab on a national team, playing on one of the best teams at the time, Hapoel Jerusalem.
Photographer Guy Yitzhaki on Ali Ottman, “There wasn’t much football broadcast on TV in those years, and when it was, it was on too late for a child in elementary school. So my main contact with the game was through the sports supplement in the Sunday newspaper, along with sports magazines. I knew the names of all the players, but for most of them did not really have a clue as to what they looked like… our meeting closed a circle for me – and to my surprise he looks quite similar to how I imagined him as a child.”
The exhibition “Black Red Yellow” will be up through August 2, 2013.