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Beitar fans arrested in fracas after drubbing by Arab club

Jerusalem supporters hurl firecrackers, smoke bombs onto field after losing playoff game 3-0 to Bnei Sakhnin

Fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club fighting with police in the stands at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on May 1, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube/ONE)
Fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club fighting with police in the stands at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on May 1, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube/ONE)

Police arrested seven supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club Sunday night as fans caused minor disturbances following a racially-charged match against Arab club Bnei Sakhnin in the capital.

Beitar fell 3-0 to Bnei Sakhnin during the game in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium.

After losing the high-tension playoff game to Israel’s only Arab Premier League club, Beitar’s largely Jewish-nationalistic fans hurled firecrackers and smoke bombs on to the field.

Another 15 Beitar fans were escorted from the Jerusalem stadium for participating in the riots, Army Radio reported.

Video from the game showed fans scuffling with police in the stands, and one person, his face bloodied, being led off the field by police and a medic.

In recent years, games between Sakhnin and its Beitar Jerusalem have required up to 600 police officers, private security guards and undercover detectives, who have attempted to root out displays of hostility and racism among fans.

After the match, MK Oren Hazan (Likud) accused police of excessive use of force in quelling the disturbances, and said he would call for a Knesset discussion on the matter.

“The amount of fans in the disturbances was not small, but this is the first time I have seen how the police fanned the flames and used excessive force against supporters,” he said, according to right-wing news site Israel National News.

The match came less than a week after Bnei Sakhnin players and coaches were involved in a post-game brawl with counterparts from Maccabi Tel Aviv, following a scoreless game in the Arab Club’s Doha stadium.

Noting the crowd’s hostility and flaring ethnic tensions, Maccabi’s captain told the press he didn’t know if he was playing in Israel or Ramallah, drawing criticism from at least one prominent Arab-Israeli figure.

Bnei Sakhnin is the only Arab-Israeli club in the Premier League, the top division in the Israel Football Association. Its state-of-the-art football stadium and sports complex was built with millions of dollars in donations from Qatar in 2005.

The club has a traditional rivalry with Beitar Jerusalem, some of whose supporters are known for anti-Arab chanting during matches. In 2012, some fans assaulted a number of Arab workers in a nearby mall following a match against Bnei Sakhnin in Teddy Stadium.

Beitar is the only major Israeli team not to employ Arab players, and the behavior of its fans has gotten the club into trouble with league authorities on a number of occasions. The fan club La Familia is known for having close ties to hate groups such as Lehava.

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