Israeli soccer player Itay Shechter scored a goal in a game against Red Bull Salzberg, and to celebrate he pulled a kippah out of his sock, put it on his head, and said the Shema.
He got a yellow card for this, and some people are crying anti-Semitism. It does seem unnecessarily intolerant, but my first instinct here is to ask why on earth he said the Shema, and not, say, shehekhianu, or the blessing we say when we hear good news, hatov v’hameitiv? Presumably he didn’t know any better, but this annoys me. Scoring a goal is a huge deal, but it doesn’t reaffirm my belief in one God. It just seems like an arbitrary choice.
It turns out there’s a story behind the kippah: Shechter received it from a fan, Moshe Zinger, a 60-year-old religious Hapoel fan who travelled to Salzburg despite suffering from cancer. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Zinger said: “Seeing Hapoel win and Shechter put on the kippah gave me such a lift that I reckon if they checked me now they would find I am healthy.”
I still don’t support just randomly saying the shema, but if that kippah really does cure cancer, Shechter can recite the lyrics to I Had a Little Dreidel for all I care.