Israeli black magic? Did Israeli soccer player Tal Ben Haim use black magic to save his team from defeat during Sunday's Euro 2016 qualifying match?
A video of Ben Haim making some bizarre hand gestures during a dangerously-positioned late free-kick by Wales forward Gareth Bale – which apparently "caused" the shot to fly uncharacteristically wide of its target for the usually dangerously-accurate Real Madrid star – has been causing something of a stir.
The tongue-in-cheek suggestion by some commentators that Ben Haim may have "put a curse" on Bale (as opposed to just trying – successfully – to distract him from the shot) was picked up by journalists and commenters alike, with at least some taking the remarks a little too seriously.
Some pro-Israel social media users vented their frustration that nefarious schemes were once again being attributed to Israelis by obsessive journalists, even when the Israelis in question were playing a simple game of football. Meanwhile, the UK's Independent published the odd, but apparently straight-faced observation that "As the Welshman stepped up to take the kick, Ben-Haim was seen attempting to perform some kind of witchcraft and put a curse on the ball."
"Strangely, just like Uri Geller's infamous 'moving' of Gary MacAllister's penalty against England at Euro '96, it worked," the article continued.
Despite it's fairly unremarkable result (0-0) the Israel vs. Wales game made headlines in the UK for other more "serious" reasons as well, as supporters of Israel faced off against anti-Israel protesters calling for a total boycott of the Jewish state.
The game itself, however, went off without a hitch, although two anti-Israel protesters were removed from Cardiff stadium for attempting to disrupt the match.
Supporters of the Israeli team – made up both of Israeli nationals and supporters of Israel from around the UK – were vastly outnumbered by the home fans, but still made their voices heard with a resounding rendition of Israel's national anthem, Hatikvah:
Outside the game itself, pro-Israel activists were joined by a number of Welsh locals upset at attempts by anti-Israel groups to hijack the sporting event:
The game also featured what may have been the first-ever mincha prayers at Cardiff stadium, during half-time:
Curses aside, the Israeli team's impervious defense earned it a valuable point, taking it to third place in Group B, above Bosnia and Herzegovina, which means they could still qualify for a playoff spot.
Better keep working on those Dark Arts then…