Text size

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday condemned Beitar Jerusalerm soccer fans for booing during a pre-game moment of silence Sunday marking mark the 12th anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Fans also sang songs of praise to Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir, later telling an Army Radio audience that they strongly supported the murder and that it was "good for Israel."

Olmert, a diehard Beitar supporter since childhood, said Monday that he "detests these brutish and violent people who, I'm sorry to say, are a sizable sector of the fans."

Speaking to a convention of business executives, Olmert said "I want to state in the clearest, angriest terms, that this behavior - not of a small group, as some would like to minimize it, but of a large, loud, influential and raging group - was wicked and unbearable."

The Peace Now movement has urged the Israel Football Association to open disciplinary proceedings against Beitar Jerusalem over the incident, the radio reported.

The story of Sunday night's game was not so much the scoreless draw but the drama beforehand. In the moment of silence commemorating the slain prime minister, Beitar fans were heard booing loudly when Rabin's name was mentioned.

Rabin was assassinated by an ultra-right wing activist who disagreed with the then prime minister's political moves toward peace with the Palestinians.

Beitar Jerusalem's management quickly issued a statement condemning the behavior: "We completely condemn the calls of some of the fans when Rabin's name was mentioned. We are ashamed and insulted that there are such fans among us. We are sure that the overwhelming majority of our fans will join us in condemning the calls."

IFA chairman Avi Luzon told Army Radio on Monday that something must be done to keep rowdy fans out of soccer stadiums. He said that the IFA's legal department has already started looking into opening disciplinary proceedings against Beitar Jerusalem.

The soccer match did not get off to an auspicious start as police turned away one of the five Beitar fans' buses and sent it back to Jerusalem from the Haifa stadium after drunk fans threw objects at Maccabi Haifa fans, injuring two of them lightly.

Once the game got going, opportunities for Beitar to score did not pop up that often in the first half, as Haifa showed better form. In the 9th minute, Haifa's Eyal Meshumar got a free kick from the penalty area but could not capitalize on it. Brazilian Gustavo Boccoli got another chance to put Haifa on the board just two minutes later, taking a good pass from Yaniv Katan, but his shot went wide of the goal.

Beitar's Gal Alberman got the first chance for his squad in the 25th minute, taking a hard shot that went amiss.

In the 41st minute, Giovanni Rosso took a corner kick that resulted in a foul, giving Boccoli a penalty kick. However, he took a sloppy shot that missed its mark.

Beitar became more aggressive in the second half, getting an early opportunity, but it was Haifa who came the closest. In the 55th minute Keinan headed the ball off a corner kick, but the goal was overturned on a foul call. Katan broke free in the 71st minute, but he also couldn't translate his shot into a score.

In the end, both sides were forced to part with a point each.