Beitar Jerusalem captured its first State Cup in 14 years on Tuesday night with a win over Maccabi Netanya, but the match was plagued with fan unruliness on the pitch during and following the final.
The game on Tuesday night at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa had to be halted numerous times due to supporters throwing flares on the field. Then following Beitar’s victory, President Isaac Herzog had to be escorted off by heavy security as thousands of black-and-yellow fans invaded the field of play prior to the presentation of the cup.
Fans took medals that were meant to be awarded to the players, cut up the netting on the goal and ran amok as the security forces lost control of the situation in an embarrassing situation for Israeli soccer as a whole.
Israel Football Association bylaws state that a team whose fans invade the pitch will be disqualified and the other team will be awarded the cup.
However, on Wednesday, Beitar Jerusalem announced that it would be presented the trophy in a special ceremony organized at the President’s Residence and Gan Sacher in lieu of the canceled presentation following the match.
“Beitar Jerusalem holds the State Cup,” said Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. “I thank the president of the country for his response and agreement to hold the ceremony again at his place today. Immediately after the ceremony, the festivities will begin in Gan Sacher. I call on all the fans to obey the instructions of the police and come to rejoice with the team.”
“I thank the president of the country for his response and agreement to hold the ceremony again at his place today. Immediately after the ceremony, the festivities will begin in Gan Sacher. I call on all the fans to obey the instructions of the police on the spot and come to rejoice with the team."Moshe Lion
Herzog said it was time to change the behavior of soccer fans’ in Israel.
“I spoke to [Culture and Sport Minister] MK Miki Zohar about the flares that were thrown onto the pitch and hurt the sportsmanship of the game, as well as the invasion by the fans onto the field, which unfortunately prevented the exciting and beautiful moment of the awarding of the trophy,” he said. “We both agreed that it’s time to uproot the violence at the stadiums!”
Moshe “Shino” Zuares, chairman of the Israel Football Association, said the fans’ behavior was disgraceful.
“I want to apologize to every soccer fan. And this is not the way we wanted to end the season, in which there was much violence. To see the president being escorted off the pitch was embarrassing, and I am personally embarrassed at the scenes that took place here.
“Once the president left the field there would be no hoisting of the cup. I had to personally apologize to the president, and everyone needs to take a good hard look here as to what happened. We can’t even give the winning team the cup in what was an embarrassing incident.”
Beitar manager Yossi Abukasis said he was also disturbed.
“I am very disappointed as to what the fans did by invading the pitch,” he said. “They did a great job in this game and in the semifinal and I can’t understand what would push the fans to do such a thing. It’s so unfortunate as to what has happened and I have never seen anything like this in my entire life. I am so disappointed.
“We had such a tough season and after a very hard start. I didn’t even know if I would still be with the team due to the ownership situation, but I am happy that Barak Abramov came in as the new owner. But the fans here really, really disappointed us as we couldn’t celebrate the way we would have wanted to.”
Abramov deflected part of the blame on the fans’ actions elsewhere.
“The fans were a great source of pride for us during the game, and the ceremony took so long to even begin, over 45 minutes. The security couldn’t control the situation and this was not under our control but that of the Israel Football Association. It was an embarrassment and a disgrace as to what happened, and this cup is ours, no one else’s.”
How did Beitar Jerusalem win the Israel State Cup?
Beitar dominated Maccabi Netanya 3-0 throughout the 90 minutes as Abukasis’s game plan worked to perfection to record the victory. The cup is the eighth in Beitar’s history and first since 2009 when it defeated Maccabi Haifa for the trophy at Ramat Gan Stadium.
Beitar came out flying in the first half, but the match had to be stopped three times as fans lobbed flares onto the Sammy Ofer pitch. Once play restarted, Abukasis’s squad grabbed a 1-0 lead via Ion Nicolaescu as Yarden Shua and Grigori Morozov teamed up to help give the yellow-and-black the advantage ahead of the halftime break.
In the 64th minute, Abukasis replaced Nicolaescu with forward Fred Friday, who repaid his coach’s confidence with a gorgeous goal off a Shua assist just 10 minutes later to double the Beitar advantage.
The capital city squad kept pushing for yet another goal and was awarded a penalty deep into second-half stoppage time when Danilo Asprilla was yanked down in the box. Shua, who orchestrated the first two goals, stepped up to take the spit kick and put the ball behind Itamar Nitzan to wrap up the victory.