Finding an overseas striker that consistently scores goals is the dream for A-League clubs – signing them from a rival club is even better.
Western Sydney Wanderers have announced the capture of a player with controversial political views that could divide their supporter base.
34-year-old Tomer Hemed who has played in England, Spain and Israel lit up the tail end of the A-League season just finished – scoring 11 goals for Wellington who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the final’s series.
Upon signing Hemed was quoted as saying: “I am very excited to be joining the Western Sydney Wanderers,”
“There is a lot of work to be done with the club and the fans’ high expectations and ambitions, but I am ready to give my all for the club and the Western Sydney community.
“I am looking forward to arriving in Western Sydney with my family and playing in front of the passionate Wanderers fans who I got to experience as an opposition player last season at Bankwest Stadium and I am delighted to have them now on my side.
“The goal is to have success at the club and I’m ready to contribute in any way that I can.”
Hemed’s signing has come at an interesting time for the much maligned yet marginalised team’s supporter base.
They were once the most envied team in the country for their large vocal crowds, but a culmination of poor performances over the past few years and active groups disbanding has left the remaining fans disillusioned with the injustice they have felt from the heaving policing and lack of support from the games governing body.
Scoring goals means celebrating and Hemed’s controversial goal celebrations might rile up the Wanderers’ large Arabic community.
It’s not uncommon to see players do some form of religious gesture before entering the field of play, after being substituted or when scoring – Sydney FC’s Serbian maestro Milos Ninkovic will regularly do the orthodox cross on his chest before a match.
Even locally in the premier league in each state of Australia you will regularly see team fly the flags of their country’s origin – Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Macedonia etc
Hemed is a very proud member of the Israeli community. That in itself isn’t a crime, but celebrating with an Israeli flag and Kippah, during the recent conflict could become more problematic than the Wanderers board thought of before signing him.
Wellington Phoenix’s social media pages turned into a toxic troll fest last season with Israeli fans arguing that Hemed should be allowed to display his national flag and faith while being hit with multiple comments like ‘free Palestine’ on posts.
The Phoenix’s PR team went into immediate overdrive and asked for fans to behave themselves and flags not to be flown in the crowd.
As for Hemed, whether he was advised to tone down his celebrations and his pro-government posts on his Instagram is another question.
Hemed’s views see him classed as a nationalist and when you consider the large Palestinian population of Western Sydney, this move to the Wanderers seems even more puzzling.
It will be interesting as a neutral fan watching how Hemed will celebrate the goals and his posts on social media. The Wanderers management will need to let Hemed know what is and isn’t acceptable with his actions.
Western Sydney is a very multi-cultural place, but ethnic tensions in the Arabic community could soon raise their ugly heads if the club and Hemed aren’t careful.