After an unprecedented melee between Hapoel Ramat Gan and Bnei Lod players during a soccer game Friday dominated the Hebrew press, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during Sunday’s cabinet meeting that “we must quell the violence on the soccer fields.”
The Ramat Gan and Lod teams play in Israel’s second-tier grouping, Lega Leumit, and the fight has thrown the future of the season into question. Limor Livnat, the minister of Culture and Sport, approved the cancellation of all games the next day, Saturday, in response to the brawl and said that measures must be taken to halt violent episodes.
Twenty-two players and coaches were arrested as a result of the fight, which came a few weeks after a similar incident during a Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Haifa game. In a related event, a mob of Beitar Jerusalem fans ran amok in Malha mall in Jerusalem in March.
“I received a report from the Ministry of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat on the actions it will take to reduce violence in soccer,” said Netanyahu. “I give her full support… If there is violence, it is not soccer. It’s necessary to stop this violence in order to return to a game that Israeli citizens, myself included, really enjoy.”
Livnat met Sunday with Police chief Yohanan Danino regarding setting in motion a fast track trial for football hooligans. She also said a committee will be convening within the next couple of days to assess the need to bring police officers back to the soccer field.
Livnat has criticized the Israel Football Association for their alleged silence on the issue of violence: “The soccer violence has scaled new heights that necessitate a different kind of systematic treatment. The pitch has become a combat arena, and everyone, apart from the heads of the association, understands this,” Ynet quoted Livnat as saying.