At least 120 arrested as Tel Aviv soccer fans clash with cops ahead of rivalry match

Chaos breaks out during security checks outside Bloomfield Stadium, which turned up smoke grenades, flares and other banned objects, police say

Illustrative: Hapoel Tel Aviv against Maccabi Tel Aviv at the final of the State Cup in at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, June 2, 2021. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
Illustrative: Hapoel Tel Aviv against Maccabi Tel Aviv at the final of the State Cup in at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, June 2, 2021. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Dozens of people were arrested in Tel Aviv on Tuesday during chaos ahead of a match between Tel Aviv’s two major professional soccer teams.

The so-called Tel Aviv derby pits Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv against each other in a charged annual meeting. Tuesday’s edition saw Maccabi spank Hapoel by a score of 5-0.

Fighting with police broke out ahead of the game at Bloomfield Stadium, which both clubs call home, as fans were checked for contraband, after an apparent raid on a fan club earlier in the day revealed a cache of pyrotechnics and weapons, according to police.

“During the security checks, fans started to disturb public order by rioting, throwing objects and attempts to break through the gates,” police said in a statement.

Some 120 people were arrested during the chaos outside the stadium and following the discovery of what media reports said were weapons and fireworks in a storage area connected to a Hapoel fan clubhouse. Two officers were injured by thrown objects, police said.

Footage showed police on horseback being pelted with small objects as they rode through groups of fans.

Authorities said they confiscated 120 flares, 35 smoke grenades, four flare guns and two Molotov cocktails, including during the security check.

Other contraband included airsoft guns, metal bars and clubs, Channel 12 news reported.

Police said they had organizers push off the game by 30 minutes to allow “safe entrance to the match.”

According to reports, police forced organizers to close the gates as unrest built due to the security checks, creating a crush at various entrances.

“Suddenly, in the middle of everyone waiting in line, the police closed the entrance and people were crushed together like sardines,” an attendee told Channel 12 news. “People were shouting, ‘Let me out,’ because they didn’t have air to breathe.”

Footage also showed Maccabi Tel Aviv fans attempting to break through a closed gate to get into the stadium.

Israeli soccer games are occasionally marred by violence from fans.

In May, after Beitar Jerusalem won a championship game, its fans stormed the field, setting off chaos and forcing the evacuation of President Isaac Herzog.

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