Some 200 Maccabi Tel Aviv fans returning from the club's Champions League game against Ajax Amsterdam were taken off their return flight to Israel yesterday after several were involved in a brawl on the plane before take off.

A number of fans got into an argument with the stewards, which quickly flared out of control, prompting the captain to call in airport security. Several fans were arrested, although they were released shortly afterward, and all the Maccabi fans on the plane were ordered to disembark.

"We are stuck in Holland. The plane has left and there is total disarray," supporter Tom Vaknin told fan website hamaccabi.com. "There was some commotion on the plane and then they decided on collective punishment and took all the supporters off," he added.

The fans were fined 50 euros each and the plane eventually took off for Israel almost completely empty. The fans were left stuck in Netherlands overnight and were looking for alternative travel arrangements home. The Foreign Ministry said last night that it would not intervene as the Israeli fans had not been victims of force majeur.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the team after the 3-0 loss to Ajax that left Maccabi without a goal and without a point after three games, was at boiling point with players trading recriminations.

Goalkeeper Liran Strauber complained to goalkeeping coach Alexander Ubarov that several players in the team were trying to undermine him and to make him the scapegoat for the defeat to Ajax.

Ubarov said that while Strauber had been at fault for Ajax's second goal he would remain Maccabi's first choice keeper, a sentiment backed by head coach Nir Klinger who said that he had no qualms about any of the players.

"I believe in my players, even if mistakes were made," Klinger said. "I brought the right players, but Maccabi can't compete with the budgets of the big clubs on the continent. It's easy to attack Nir Klinger if Maccabi loses 3-0, but Maccabi will keep on going forward. Maccabi is a big club and there will be no vilification of the players."

Klinger also gave his backing to Cameroon striker Emile Mbamba, another player on the wrong end of some harsh criticism within the team. "Mbamba is a good striker and will score goals in the future. Mbamba told Klinger yesterday that he was not used to playing under the method employed by the coach and apologized for his poor finishing.

Maccabi chairman Loni Herzikovic was stoic in defeat and said that he had thanked Klinger for bringing Maccabi to the Champions League. Herzikovic castigated those who had attacked Klinger and the players after the defeat.

"There are bad people with bad intentions who assail us. These people don't deserve a team in the Champions League. They forget that other teams in the Champions League lose games - when it happens to Maccabi they think it's the end of the world. Obviously we aren't Bayern or Juventus. I'm sure Klinger will continue to lead us in the right direction."

Meanwhile Maccbi said yesterday it would take steps to strengthen the team with Pini Balili and Omri Afek topping the club's shopping list.