Forget hiding ’em, send ’em to the game!

Only women and children permitted to attend Hapoel Tel Aviv-Kiryat Shmona clash, per IFA’s odd ruling.

Hapoel Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Only women and children will be allowed to enter Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Premier League match against Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Sunday, the Israel Football Association High Court decided on Thursday.
Hapoel was supposed to play against the runaway league-leader in front of an empty Bloomfield Stadium after being sentenced to host three matches without fans, as well as being deducted three points, for the violence displayed by its supporters after the derby encounter against Maccabi Tel Aviv last Monday.
Hapoel appealed against the punishment, and although the court will only make its final decision next week, it has chosen in the meantime to allow women and children under the age 14 to attend Sunday’s showdown as suggested in a letter sent to the court by IFA chairman Avi Luzon.
The “women and children only” ruling was first implemented by the Turkish Football Association earlier this season, with 41,000 supporters showing up for Fenerbahce’s 1-1 draw with Manisaspur.
On Saturday, Hapoel Haifa will be hoping to record a rare double against its cross-town rival at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
While Hapoel Haifa spent much of the past decade in the National League, Maccabi Haifa dominated Israeli soccer, winning seven championships in the last 11 seasons.
But after a decade of heartache, Hapoel finally claimed a league derby win over the Greens three months ago, coming back from a goal down to defeat Maccabi 3-1 in front of the reigning champion’s stunned fans.
That defeat saw the Greens fall 10 points behind first-placed Kiryat Shmona and was effectively the beginning of the end of the team’s title defense.
Despite last week’s humbling 4-1 home thrashing at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi still has second place in its sights.
The loss to the Reds left Elisha Levy’s men in sixth place, four points behind Hapoel Tel Aviv, but while the Greens are fighting for European qualification, Hapoel Haifa has got far more urgent concerns.
Last week’s 2-0 defeat at Maccabi Tel Aviv means there are just four points separating Hapoel in 11th place and Hapoel Rishon Lezion in 15th.
With rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva effectively already relegated, five teams look set to battle until the bitter end to avoid finishing in 14th and 15th places which lead to the National League at the season’s conclusion.
This weekend’s matches will also have an added importance as they will decide the order of play for the final seven weeks of the season.
The league will be split into two sections ahead of next weekend, with the bottom eight to all meet each other one more time before the end of the season and the top eight to also each play seven more games.
Betar Jerusalem, which is tied on 31 points with Hapoel Haifa, could find itself in the relegation zone by the time it goes for its third consecutive victory against Bnei Yehuda on Monday.
A win for 13th-placed Maccabi Petah Tikva at Hapoel Acre on Saturday will take it above Betar, although Petah Tikva has picked up just a single point from its past five matches.
Hapoel Beersheba can also leapfrog Jerusalem with a win over fellow-struggler Rishon, should the security situation in the south of Israel allow Saturday’s match to go ahead as scheduled.
Ashdod SC’s home game against Bnei Sakhnin is also in doubt following the renewed rocket fire from Gaza.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, which is in danger of being dragged into the relegation scuffle after winning just once in its past nine encounters, will visit Hapoel Petah Tikva, while Maccabi Netanya hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv.