Maccabi Haifa teammates were forced to fight for their safety after being attacked by a mob of pro-Palestinian protesters Wednesday in Austria..
(photo credit: MACCABI HAIFA WEBSITE)
Maccabi Haifa will continue its training camp in Austria as planned despite the mass brawl with pro-Palestinian protesters and the scary scenes that marred Wednesday’s pre-season friendly match versus French club Lille.
The game against Lille in Bischofshofen in Salzburg province had to be abandoned in the 85th minute after a group of protesters stormed the pitch and confronted the Haifa players.
The mob tried to assault some of the Haifa players, who fought back until the security stewards and police force on hand finally reacted and calmed the situation.
One Haifa player said he saw one of the protesters holding a knife, although all the players left the pitch unscathed.
Haifa only finally made its way back to the hotel with a police escort after more than an hour, with some of the protesters waiting for the team outside the stadium.
“Maccabi Haifa Football Club believes in co-existence, tolerance and is against violence,” a club statement read. “We denounce the violence that was used against us. This didn’t happen because of sport or football, it happened because we are a team which represents Israel.”
Salzburg police said on Thursday that around 20 people with flags and placards, mostly Austrians of Turkish origin, stormed the pitch shouting slogans about the Gaza conflict.
Austria’s chancellor condemned the violence.
“Guests who are staying in Austria have the right to do so in safety, regardless of their origin and religion,” Werner Faymann said in a statement.
Despite the unpleasant experience, Haifa held another pre-season match against an Albanian opponent on Thursday and will face German club Paderborn on Saturday before returning to Israel as planned on Sunday.