Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon responded to a brawl that broke out at a soccer game in Ramat Gan Friday by canceling all games scheduled for Saturday.
“I am shocked by the events that took place today at the game,” Luzon told Channel 2 Friday night.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing that the number of violent incidents is rising, and after consulting with [Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat] I decided to halt the schedule of games tomorrow.”
Four people were lightly injured in a brawl that broke out among players in a game between Hapoel Ramat Gan and Bnei Lod at Ramat Gan’s Weiner Stadium. Police detained two people involved in the violence.
Police also released the manager of Bnei Lod, Suleiman Azbarga, to house arrest for five days on Friday after being arrested for involvement in the massive brawl between rival players on the field.
Police also arrested the assistant manager, Ismail Azbarga.
Police are expected to make arrests of players on the Hapoel Ramat Gan team.
In an interview with Channel 2, Azbarga said he was merely defending himself.
“Show me one person on this planet who could look at me and say he would not defend himself against the blows directed at me,” he said. “I saw death.”
The news comes on the heels of last month’s Beitar Jerusalem incident, where excited fans rioted in the adjacent Malha mall, targeting Arab workers and shoppers.
The recent uptick in violence presents an unprecedented crisis in Israeli soccer, which threatens the future of the league.
Luzon added that he would hold a joint meeting with Livnat and the police authorities to implement a plan stemming violence in the sport. “I don’t want us to reach the point where someone is killed on the field,” he told Channel 2. “It is an embarrassment and disgraceful, and I support putting police officers on the field.”
Earlier this month, a similar brawl broke out at a game between Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Haifa.
In TV footage of the incident, Hapoel Haifa’s Ali Khatib is clearly seen as throwing a punch at Maccabi’s Danny Preda before being head butted by Petah Tikva goalkeeping coach Ami Genish and allegedly being kicked while on the ground by Yigal Maman, who acted as a steward in the match and is a Petah Tikva fan close to the club’s ownership.
Both Petah Tikva and Haifa were fined NIS 25,000.
Khatib and Stefan Denkovic from Haifa and Petah Tikva’s Preda were all suspended for three matches for their roles, while Haifa’s Gal Arel was handed a twomatch ban.
Genish, who together with Maman is set to stand trial in a criminal court for assaulting Khatib, was suspended from all sport activity for 18 months.
Allon Sinai and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.