Beitar Jerusalem players .
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Beitar Jerusalem’s hopes of qualifying for European competition were handed a blow on Thursday after it was deducted two points by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court for the racist chants directed by its fans at Ironi Kiryat Shmona forward Ahmed Abed.
It was the fourth time this season that Beitar was standing trial for racist chanting and the court decided to activate the suspended sentence it was handed earlier in the campaign.
Beitar dropped one place to fifth in the standings following the punishment and now trails Maccabi Haifa on goal difference in the battle for fourth position, which leads to Europa League qualification.
Beitar was furious with the ruling and promised to lodge an appeal.
“They want to decide which team will play in Europe in an unsporting manner,” said Beitar owner Eli Tabib. “We are doing everything to fight violence and racism, but we receive a different treatment from the court compared to other teams. Should our appeal be turned down I’m not continuing in soccer.”
Beitar hosts Maccabi Haifa at Teddy Stadium on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Netanya players returned to training on Thursday, ending their four-day strike after being paid their salaries for February and March.
Netanya received a NIS 500,000 loan from the Maccabi Israel center on Thursday and expects to receive additional funds in the coming days from the sale of Nigerian forward Olarenwaju Kayode to cover its remaining debts to the players.
The match between Netanya and Hapoel Acre had already been postponed from Saturday to Monday so that Netanya players would have time to prepare.
While Netanya no longer has anything left to play for, Acre is desperate for a win in the battle against relegation.
Only two points separate Acre in 11th place and Hapoel Haifa in 13th, which leads to demotion to the National League. Ashdod SC is sandwiched between the teams.
Ashdod hosts rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday, which is five points back from safety with six points left to play for.
Haifa visits Hapoel Ra’anana on Saturday, while Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Hapoel Tel Aviv. Ironi Kiryat Shmona can climb back up to second place for at least 48 hours when it welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva, with Hapoel Beersheba not hosting Maccabi Tel Aviv until Monday.