ISRAELI SOCCER made the headlines for all the wrong reasons once again on Monday night, with players from Maccabi Tel Aviv – including Tal Ben-Haim (left) and Eran Zahavi (center) – and Bnei Sakhnin players clashing following a 0-0 draw in Premier League action at Doha Stadium..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
The scenes at the final whistle of Monday night’s match between Bnei Sakhnin and Maccabi Tel Aviv at Doha Stadium reverberated across Israeli sports on Tuesday, with local soccer once more making news headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Following a 0-0 draw that left Maccabi three points back of Hapoel Beersheba in the Premier League title race ahead of their showdown next week, a mass brawl broke out on the pitch involving players, coaches and staff from both teams, as well as security forces.
Four arrests were made, three of fans, and one of a steward who allegedly assaulted Maccabi players, with Tel Aviv midfielder Shlomi Azulay leaving Doha with a blue mark on his face following his encounter with a local steward.
Tensions between the teams were already running high prior to the match, with Maccabi and Sakhnin meeting again just four days after their volatile showdown in the State Cup semifinals. A Tal Ben-Haim winner with five minutes to play gave Maccabi a dramatic 3-2 win over Sakhnin in an enthralling cup affair at Haifa Stadium last Thursday, booking the yellow-and-blue a meeting with Maccabi Haifa in the final next month.
Sakhnin coach, Yossi Abuksis, and his players were furious at the end of the match, blaming Maccabi for acting in an unsporting manner in the lead-up to its first goal. Abuksis was sent off for his protests to the referee after Tel Aviv continued play even though Ali Osman allowed the ball to roll out in order to receive treatment for an injury.
After the final whistle on Monday, Abuksis approached the Maccabi bench and initially exchanged words with fitness coach Juan Torrijo. Both benches quickly cleared and in the ensuing melee, Maccabi goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic shoved Abuksis to the ground after which an unidentified man in a Sakhnin shirt attempted to kick the Serbian stopper.
Matters truly got out of hand when the stewards attempted to separate the sides but instead ended up fanning the flames.
“This is a scandal and this isn’t the first time that something like this has happened here,” said Maccabi captain Eran Zahavi. “I don’t know if I was in Sakhnin or Ramallah.”
Maccabi dropped two precious points with the goalless deadlock, but the incidents at Doha could end up proving even more costly in the title race, with the Israel Football Association announcing on Tuesday that the club will face charges for the unsporting conduct of its supporters, players and staff members, with Rajkovic to face separate charges for assaulting Abuksis. He is expected to be handed a suspension which will see him miss the crucial encounter with Beersheba.
Abuksis and Torrijo were also charged for their inappropriate behavior. Sakhnin faces charges for the unsporting conduct of its supporters, players and staff members, as well as its responsibility for the brawl as the host team. The IFA’s disciplinary court will convene for a special session on Wednesday to hand out its verdicts.