Israeli police arrested four people following the tense soccer match between bitter rivals Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin, in which Sakhnin won 1:0 Sunday night with a 39th minute goal by Ismail Ryan.
The match was nearly cancelled for fear of violent outbreaks between the predominantly Arab, and the largely Jewish-nationalistic, respective fan bases of each team.
Seven hundred police officers and 250 security guards were stationed at the Doha Stadium in the northern Israeli-Arab city of Sakhnin ahead of the match. Nevertheless, several disturbances were noted throughout the game, with Sakhnin fans igniting a large torch on the stands in spite of police instructions, and a Beitar supporter breaking car windshields outside the stadium.
The Beitar fan, a nineteen-year-old, was detained by police and taken in for questioning, Ynet reported.
The bathrooms at the stadium were reportedly ransacked by Beitar fans.
תראו מה אוהדי בית"ר עשו לשירותים בדוחאhttp://sports.walla.co.il/item/2804446
Fans of both clubs regularly jeered and spewed racial epithets at each other during the game’s 90 minutes, the Walla news site reported. Beitar fans were heard chanting “Muhammad is dead,” while Sakhnin fans called to “redeem the al-Aqsa Mosque, with blood and fire.” Sakhnin fans were also reported to have waved Palestinian flags, presumably in an attempt to enrage Beitar’s right-wing Jewish supporters.
A minor scuffle between players in the 87th minute of the match spiraled into near-pandemonium, as riled up team members on either end of the field began to show their aggressive sides. In the final few minutes of the game, the referee pulled out no less than seven yellow cards.
Following the match, riots broke out as the two fan groups clashed and hurled objects at each other from the stands. Three Beitar fans were lightly injured and were treated by medical teams at the scene.
On Thursday, police had informed the Bnei Sakhnin club that it would not be permitted to host the match at its home stadium due to the lack of emergency exits, and said the game must be held at an alternative venue. Authorities then issued a public order to close the area around the stadium.
Bnei Sakhnin’s management, however, insisted that the team would not play the emotionally charged game if it did not take place in its home stadium and immediately began working on a number of initiatives designed to improve fan safety. The police then relented, and the game went ahead.
Recent matches between the teams have required up to 600 police officers, private security guards and undercover detectives, who have attempted to root out displays of hostility and calls of racist incitement between fans.
Bnei Sakhnin is the only Arab-Israeli club in the Premier League, the top division in the Israeli Football Association. Its state-of-the-art football stadium and sports complex was built with millions of dollars in donations from Qatar in 2005.
Adiv Sterman and Justin Jalil contributed to this report.