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Israeli Soccer Star Nir Bitton and Family Subjected to Antisemitic Abuse Following Match Defeat

avatar by Ben Cohen

Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton leaves the field in disbelief after being shown a red card during Celtic’s 1-0 loss to Glasgow rivals Rangers. Photo: Screenshot.

Top Israeli professional soccer player Nir Bitton was subjected to a torrent of antisemitic abuse on social media over the weekend from fans of the Scottish club he plays for, Glasgow Celtic.

On Saturday, Celtic were beaten 1-0 by their bitter crosstown rivals, Glasgow Rangers, with a goal in the 70th minute of the ‘Old Firm Derby’ between the two.

With the score still at 0-0 eight minutes earlier, midfielder Bitton was shown the red card for a foul on Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos, whom referee Bobby Madden judged was poised to score the match’s opening goal.

Speaking after the match, Celtic’s coach Neil Lennon stood by Bitton, insisting that the former Ashdod player had been ejected from the game by a “really poor refereeing decision” that had cost his side the much-anticipated tie. But several fans of the club took to social media to blame Bitton for the defeat nonetheless, hurling insults that included “dirty Jew bastard” and “Zionist rat,” according to the London-based Jewish Chronicle.

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The online trolls didn’t ignore Bitton’s family either. On Sunday, the player’s wife, Bar Bitton, shared messages she had received on Instagram threatening the lives of the couple and their two children.

“Here you ya cow, you and yer husband deserve tae be hung on the streets,” one message stated. Another message declared, “F**k you and yer wains” (children).

Bitton has been targeted by antisemitic fans on more than one occasions since signing for Celtic in 2013. One incident in 2016 — a tweet stating that death by gassing was “too good” a fate for the Israeli — was the subject of a police investigation.

Saturday’s match against Rangers also saw verbal confrontations between fans of the rival clubs. Celtic’s fan-base is largely Catholic, while that of Rangers is mainly Protestant, and contests between the two have often seen violently sectarian chants and songs. Celtic fans have often been seen flying Palestinian flags and the Irish tricolor alongside their club’s green-and-white banners.

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