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April 14, 2023 10:19 am

Basketball Governing Body Launches Investigation After Greek Fans Attack Israeli Counterparts During Game in Athens


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A view of Athens, Greece. Photo: Jan M via Wikimedia Commons.

The Basketball Champions League (BCL), the chief organization for the sport in Europe, said on Thursday it will take disciplinary measures following the violent attacks that fans of Hapoel Jerusalem faced from fans of the Greek basketball team AEK as the two teams competed in the FIBA Champions League quarterfinal series in Athens a day earlier.

“The BCL Single Judge has opened disciplinary proceedings whose outcome will be communicated to all relevant parties once the process has been concluded,” BCL, also known as the FIBA Champions League, said in a released statement. It added that it “condemns all instances of violence inside our sport arenas and reaffirms that the safety of fans attending BCL games remains our priority.”

During Wednesday’s game in Ano Liosia Olympic Hall in Athens, AEK fans hurled rocks at the over 500 Hapoel Jerusalem supporters in the stands and also threw firecrackers at Israeli fans and players, Ynet reported. They additionally burned the Israeli flag, carried Palestinian and Hezbollah flags, held up banners that had pro-Palestinian messages and reportedly chanted antisemitic slogans. A Hapoel Jerusalem fan attending the game also told Israel Hayom that from the beginning of the match, AEK fans pointed laser beams at their eyes.

During the post-game match press conference, Hapoel Jerusalem head coach Aleksandar Džikić mentioned an Israeli fan who was injured in the stands, but did not specify if the supporter was hurt by the violent attacks carried out by AEK fans.

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Hapoel Jerusalem owner Eyal Chomsky denounced the violence in a video and said Israeli mothers were protecting their children in the stands because they were being “traumatized” by the ordeal. He added that Greek fans threw enough firecrackers that could have caused a fire and burned people in the stands.

Hapoel Jerusalem issued a statement after the match, calling the situation “nothing less than a terror attack on Israeli fans who came in droves to support their team.”

“At half time we considered removing our players and fans but were unable to because the Greek fans had surrounded the stadium and the danger was real of an attack outside the stadium,” the team said. “Stopping the game is also a possibility that was seriously considered by the team’s management, but the security personnel and the police warned that this decision could lead to complete chaos and a violent pogrom that would endanger human life. Therefore, it was decided, for the sake of maintaining the safety of all Hapoel fans, to continue the game.”

Amichai Chikli, the Israeli minster of diaspora affairs and combatting antisemitism, also sent a letter to Greece’s Ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis condemning the antisemitic and anti-Israel actions of the AEK fans and demanding that the attackers be punished. 

Chikli noted that a similar incident happened in December 2019, when the same teams competed in Athens and AEK fans burned Israeli flags and raised pictures of Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti. He added in this letter to Loukakis two photos — one from the 2019 chaos and another from this week’s — to show similarities between the two violent incidents.

“Since this specific case has repeated itself, we demand a governmental condemnation of the criminal and antisemitic acts, open up an investigation and ensure justice prevails against the perpetrators, to ensure similar instances will not repeat themselves in the future,” he wrote to Loukakis.

AEK ultimately won the game on April 12 against Hapoel Jerusalem 94-78. The game was Jerusalem’s first loss so far in the tournament and the two teams will compete again on April 19.

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