PUSH

Maccabi Tel Aviv player Eran Zahavi pushes away a Hapoel fan which caused a pitch melee

A top-flight Israeli football match was abandoned on Monday night after a supporter ran on the pitch and attacked a player.

The Tel Aviv derby between Hapoel and Maccabi at the Bloomfield Stadium was tied at 1-1 with 34 minutes on the clock, when a Hapoel supporter ran onto the pitch to confront Maccabi midfielder Eran Zahavi. As the supporter tried to attack Zahavi, the player responded by kicking out at the assailant which resulted in him being shown a red card by the Roei Reinshriber.

Zahavi then called on his teammates to walk off the pitch with him, and although sporting director Jordi Cruyff eventually managed to persuade him to leave ten minutes later, once the match resumed, several Maccabi fans then ran onto the pitch and racing towards the Hapoel stand, forced Reinshriber to once more bring the game to a halt. Both teams then left the pitch, and 30 minutes later, Reinshriber abandoned the match with both sides having called on him to suspend the game. Police arrested 10 people, charged with disrupting the peace, violence and breaking into the stadium’s pitch.

Hapoel manager Eyal Berkovic said: “I’ve been saying for years that local soccer is too much like war, I asked the referee to stop the match. It is about time we understand that soccer is sport. As soon as the pitch becomes a battle field there is no point in playing. Both teams should receive a very heavy punishment. This is a dark day for local soccer.”

Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini said: “I’m very concerned that violence reared its ugly head in such a dangerous way. The IFA will not only hold those responsible accountable, but it will also head the fight against violence in soccer and the return to sanity.”