The match, between Beitar, whose supporters are fiercely Jewish-nationalistic, and Israel’s only Arab side, nearly didn’t take place for fear of scenes of violence between the two sets of supporters following last week’s deadly attack in Jerusalem. However, while police did allow the game to take place, after saying security had been significantly improved at their Qatar-funded Doha Stadium, it was the players who started fighting each other, notably in injury time when they started pushing and shoving each other.
However, the trouble wasn’t reserved for just on the pitch. Police deployed 700 officers in and around the stadium, which included paramilitary border police and riot squads, while another 250 private security guards patrolled the ground. The Walla news site claimed fans of both clubs jeered and made racist chants during the match. Beitar fans were heard chanting “Muhammad is dead”, with responding with “With our spirit and blood we will redeem Al-Aqsa”. And despite there being a ban on flags being allowed into the ground, Beitar fans smuggled in Israeli flags, while Sakhnin did likewise with Plaestinian ones.
Following the match, fans clashed and threw objects at each other from the stands. Police later confirmed four people had been arrested.
A second division Liga Leumit game between Bnei Yehuda and Bnei Lod on Friday was also marred by racism, with Yehuda fans shouting “Death to Arabs” and other racist slurs at Bnei Lod chairman Abu Subhi and midfielder Salim Tuam, while Subhi claimed the supporters then shouted, spat and threw coins at Bnei Lod player Mahmoud Abbas when he went off the pitch injured.
The Israel Football Association said it “wholeheartedly condemns the ugly sights and voices” during the match.