Local soccer goes soul searching after Tel Aviv derby brawl

Fingers were pointed in every direction on Tuesday, with police blaming the fans, Hapoel blaming Zahavi and Maccabi blaming Hapoel.

November 5, 2014 08:34
2 minute read.
Security guards haul away a fan who ran onto the pitch

Security guards haul away a fan who ran onto the pitch. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)


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The shock waves continued to reverberate through Israeli soccer on Tuesday following the ugly scenes which forced the abandonment of Monday’s Tel Aviv derby between Hapoel and Maccabi.

During the 33rd minute of the match at Bloomfield Stadium, with the score tied at 1-1, a Hapoel fan jumped out of the stands and ran onto the pitch to confront Maccabi star Eran Zahavi. The two exchanged blows for over 10 seconds until the intruder was finally reprehended by the stewards. Zahavi was sent off for his part in the brawl and it took over 10 minutes until the match could be resumed. However, it was stopped for good only several seconds later after Maccabi fans burst onto the pitch.

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The violent incidents at Bloomfield have been unanimously condemned by politicians, police chiefs and anyone related to Israeli sports.

However, there is little agreement regarding who should shoulder the main blame for the shocking skirmish on the pitch.

Fingers were pointed in every direction on Tuesday, with police blaming the fans, Hapoel blaming Zahavi and Maccabi blaming Hapoel.

The Israel Football Association has yet to announce when Hapoel and Maccabi will stand trial at the disciplinary court, but both clubs look set to receive hefty punishments.

“There is no reason which can justify such a violent ending to a soccer match,” said IFA chairman Ofer Eini. “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.”

Hapoel Tel Aviv GM Eyal Berkovic said Premier League matches should be suspended for the near future due to the derby debacle, but the league’s administration already announced on Tuesday that this weekend’s action will go ahead as planned.

“First of all I’d like to apologize,” said Berkovic. “As the hosts we take full responsibility. I’m embarrassed. However, there is a big ‘but’. We are not the only ones who should be blamed. I have already decided that we will no longer work with this security company. They were negligent. We did everything we were requested and it cost us hundreds of thousands of shekels.

“Zahavi didn’t deserve a red card, but he can’t provoke Hapoel fans during every match,” Berkovic added. “It is about time Maccabi puts an end to it.”

Maccabi CEO Martin Bain insisted Zahavi is not responsible for what unfolded.

“Maccabi finds itself in a difficult situation. We don’t accept violence and anti-social behavior,” Bain said. “Fundamentally, the game was stopped by a hooligan. Eran did nothing different than he has done before.”

Coach Pako Ayesteran echoed Bain’s sentiment.

“The main fact is that somebody jumped on the pitch and a player was attacked by a hooligan,” the Spaniard said. “The rest that happened was a consequence of that. Don’t blame the victim.”

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