Maccabi Tel Aviv fined after soccer players, fans break virus rules to celebrate
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Maccabi Tel Aviv fined after soccer players, fans break virus rules to celebrate

Team to pay NIS 20,000 to aid COVID-19 sufferers after players came onto balcony as crowd gathered below following win

Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer fans celebrate team's victory along with players, June 3, 2020 (Screen grab/Walla)
Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer fans celebrate team's victory along with players, June 3, 2020 (Screen grab/Walla)

The Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team was fined Thursday after players and fans celebrated a win next to a stadium Wednesday, in contravention of social distancing regulations.

Maccabi Tel Aviv will pay NIS 20,000 (approx $5,700) to a medical institution treating victims of the coronavirus, the Israel Football Association said.

The incident, in which players stood on a stadium balcony and encouraged massing fans, came just a day after rival team Hapoel Tel Aviv was warned over similar scenes at the same stadium.

“These events severely damage the management’s efforts, and the televising of soccer, as well as the families making a living. Above all it hurts the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans who long to return to the fields,” said a letter from league head Erez Halfon to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

“This [celebration] happened despite our explicit demand, which we made before the game, to avoid players celebrating with fans during this sensitive period.”

The soccer players came out onto the balconies at the Bloomfield Stadium after a 2:0 victory over Maccabi Haifa.

According to the Ynet news site, fans and players sang songs and chants together including “Maccabi Haifa Hezbollah” and “All of Hapoel are sons of whores,” in reference to rival teams.

Police eventually broke up the rally.

Israeli soccer resumed play on Saturday with heavy restrictions, including that no fans be allowed into the stadium to enforce social distancing to battle the coronavirus.

Two fans who attended a game at Bloomfield Stadium in February were later confirmed as coronavirus carriers, leading to dozens being quarantined and eventually to all soccer matches being called off for three months as much of the country shut down.

Israeli soccer returns after months of coronavirus hiatus, with a Premier League match between Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Beersheba at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on May 30, 2020 (Flash90)

At the time, attendance was up 25 percent over the previous season, and the league was poised to set a record of over two million fans in a season.

The break between games amounted to a lull of 90 days. The previous longest break in a season due to a crisis was 49 days in 1990-91 due to the Gulf War, the Ynet news site reported. In 1976-77, play was halted for 49 days while the national team was abroad in Asia.

The Premier League teams began full squad practice sessions on May 10 as virus restrictions eased, allowing players to train together without maintaining two-meter social distancing gaps between them, and with all of the team together on the field at the same time.

Players will live in home quarantine with their families throughout the season. Any player to test positive for coronavirus will force players who came into contact with them over the previous 14 days to go into isolation.

A worker sets up the corner flag at the Teddy stadium in Jerusalem, ahead of the reopening of the soccer session on Saturday, on May 27, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While Israel’s virus outbreak has slowed, allowing the country to ease lockdown restrictions, there has been a renewed outbreak over the past week, apparently centered around schools.

Top Health Ministry officials blamed the rising infections on the public’s weakening adherence to social-distancing guidelines.

On Saturday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the public of the need to continue to maintain social distancing and hygiene practices, and said lockdown measures could yet be reimposed if infections continue to rise.

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