Even sports in the Holy Land can sometimes take on a decidedly spiritual nature as was seen on Wednesday night when an Israeli soccer player expressed his enthusiasm at scoring the game-winning goal by bursting into prayer in front of the enthusiastic crowd.
Beitar Jerusalem soccer team waited seven years to beat their rival Sachnin in their home stadium. On Wednesday night they were finally victorious, beating Sachnin 2-1 in a match leading up to the finals. Itai Schecther was ecstatic when he scored the winning goal in the 71st minute, threading the ball between three defenders.
“This was a super important victory, said Shechter after the game explaining his reaction to the goal. Shechter celebrated by running to the sidelines to borrow a kippah from one of the bystanders. He covered his eyes with his hand and said the ‘Shema prayer with visible intensity in front of thousands of ecstatic fans.
Schecther explained. “I looked over and saw a kid wearing a kippah and I said to myself, ‘Why not sanctify the name of God in a game like this?’ I felt good about this.”
The athlete’s celebration even attracted the attention of Israel’s Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri, a religious Jew and apparently a sports fan. After the game, Deri tweeted, “Jewish prayer in the State of Israel is certainly legitimate”.
Shechter’s prayer can be seen in the video below at the 3:21 mark.