A Palestinian soccer player on an Israeli team was allegedly attacked by members of the opposing team’s training staff, the latest incident in a wave of soccer violence in Israel.
Hapoel Haifa midfielder Ali Khatib, who also plays for the Palestinian national team, was taken to the hospital upon being knocked out by a serious blow to his head after Haifa lost to Macabbi Petah Tikva in the 90th minute of play.
He was released and sent home early Sunday morning, with broken teeth and bruising to his face and head.
Two members of Petah Tikva’s management are suspected of involvement in the incident, and they remain in police custody.
The attack comes on the heels of a melee at a Jerusalem mall by fans of Beitar Jerusalem, who chanted anti-Arab slogans and allegedly beat a number of Arab workers at the mall after a game two weeks ago.
Police, originally silent on the mall incident, agreed to launch an investigation after a report on the mob violence by the Haaretz newspaper. Since then a number of arrests have been made.
At the beginning of March, a number of fans and players were attacked in a game-ending brawl at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.
It was a massive brawl again Saturday night which led to the attack, after players and coaches from both teams converged on the field at the end of the game.
In a video posted on YouTube, Ami Ganish, one of Peta Tikvah’s coaches, can be seen head-butting Khatib and knocking him to the ground. Witnesses said that Yigal Maman, from Petah Tikva’s management, kicked Khatib as he lay on the ground.
Both of the suspects’ attorneys told Israel’s Sport Channel 5 they would fully cooperate with the police investigation in order to get to the bottom of the matter. They said their clients are respectable people with no problematic or criminal records.
The Israeli Football Association released an official statement condemning violence of any kind, and wishing Khatib a fast and full recovery. “We hope the police and courts will treat the case with the appropriate seriousness,” spokesperson Michal Gronland said.