Beitar Jerusalem Fined NIS 50,000 Over Fans' anti-Arab Racism

Despite tension, Beitar Jerusalem game against Umm al-Fahm passes with relative calm, ending in 5-0 victory for the capital's team.

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An Israel Football Association disciplinary tribunal fined Beitar Jerusalem NIS 50,000 and ordered the eastern stand of Teddy Stadium closed for the team’s next five games, after fans hurled racist abuse during the team’s game on Saturday against Bnei Yehuda. The fans were protesting the team’s plan to sign two Muslim players from Chechnya.

Despite all the pre-match tension, Tuesday night’s State Cup game between Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Umm al-Fahm passed with reasonable calm at Teddy Stadium. Eleven Beitar fans were detained and barred entry following scuffles outside the stadium before the game, and three visiting fans were arrested for flying the Palestinian flag during the match.

Beitar beat Umm al-Fahm, from the second-tier National League, 5-0.

Police escorted the visiting players and fans through the capital to prevent further flare-ups. The game kicked off at 7 P.M. An hour and a half in, one Umm al-Fahm fan was arrested on suspicion of attacking a policeman, and a Beitar Jerusalem fan was arrested on suspicion of drug possession, but the game was relatively peaceful overall.

In an unprecedented move hours before Tuesday’s game, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court banned 50 Beitar Jerusalem fans attending the match against Umm al-Fahm. The court was complying with the club’s request to ban 50 fans known for racist incitement in the past.

However, despite the agreement reached the day before with Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon, the club failed to ask the court to order that the game be played before empty stands in an attempt to prevent a repeat of Saturday’s shocking display.

“The game made headlines thanks to the ugly phenomena we’ve seen recently,” Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said before Tuesday’s game. “We must all condemn this phenomenon. I call on all fans to show restraint and honor the state and the sport. Hundreds of police officers will be in attendance, and I hope they will have nothing to do. The Jewish nation is the last that should have to be explained why we should fight such an ugly phenomenon.”

Police said they intended to closely guard the Umm al-Fahm team bus and its supporters, and allow the Beitar fans to leave the stadium after the game only once all the visiting fans had left in the company of police officers until they departed the capital. Directors of Maccabi Umm al-Fahm, had threatened not to show up for the game if it was to be played in front of empty stands, saying that busloads of fans from the Arab city would be denied the right to watch their team play because of the behavior of Beitar’s racist fans.

Fans at Tuesday night’s game. The court banned 50 Beitar fans from attending the match at the club’s request. Credit: Ilan Assayag

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