Local Soccer: Betar J'lem faces point deduction for racist chanting

Defending league champion could be docked four points after referee report cites fans' songs.

betar fans 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
betar fans 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Betar Jerusalem is in danger of being deducted four points following its fans' racist chants during Saturday's victory at Maccabi Petah Tikva. Israel Football Association prosecutor Shalom Eben-Ezra charged the two-time reigning league champion on Monday after referee Haim Ya'akov reported that the Betar supporters shouted "Muhammad is dead" several times during Saturday's match. Betar, which currently trails Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa by six points, was given a suspended four-point deduction last year and, should the IFA's disciplinary court decide to activate the suspended sentence, Betar would lose any realistic chance of defending its league title, as it would fall 10 points behind the league leaders with just six matches remaining in the season. According to the New Israel Fund's weekly report on violence in the Premier League, a group of 200 Betar fans verbally abused the Arab public on Saturday, as they have done during each and every one of the team's matches this season. Meanwhile, an Italian league sports judge ordered Juventus on Monday to play a match behind closed doors because of the racist insults hurled by fans at Inter striker Mario Balotelli during a Serie A match. League Judge Gianpaolo Tosel issued the ruling two days after Saturday's match at Turin's Olympic stadium, the ANSA news agency reported. Balotelli, who scored Inter's goal in the 1-1 draw with Juventus, was the subject of repeated racial slurs and chants during the match. Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti said he would have pulled the Italian league leaders off the field had he been at the stadium. "What I find terrible is that these chants were sung by at least four-fifths of the stadium," Moratti was quoted as saying Monday in Corriere della Sera. "Had I been at the stadium, at a certain point I would have left my seat in the stands, I would have gone down on the field and pulled out the team," he said. "There must be a limit." Balotelli was born in Palermo, the son of Ghanian immigrants. At 18, he is considered one of the game's most promising talents. Moratti lamented that the media had not given enough prominence to the racial incident, saying that there is a risk of "getting used to racism." Juventus has apologized, condemning the racial chants also on "on behalf of the overwhelming majority of our fans." Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli said that "there can be no alibi or justification." The team risks a fine or other sanctions from the Italian football authorities.