‘One of the Most Shameful Events in Israeli Soccer’: Fans Storm Field After Beitar Jerusalem Wins State Cup
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said he will present the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team the State Cup trophy at his official residence on Wednesday after fans of the team disrupted the original trophy ceremony that was set to take place on the field, forcing the president to be escorted away by security after the team’s victory.
Herzog’s office made the announcement and added that the theme of the trophy ceremony will now be “condemning and battling violence in sports,” according to The Associated Press.
Videos from Tuesday night show thousands of Beitar Jerusalem fans storming the field at Haifa’s Sammy Ofer stadium right after the team’s 3-0 win against Maccabi Netanya, marking Beitar Jerusalem’s first State Cup victory in 14 years and the eighth in the franchise’s history.
Chaos ensued when some supporters on the field burned the soccer nets in the goals, to take pieces home with them, and stole medals that were intended for the athletes, according to Israeli public radio Kan. As a result, the trophy ceremony was unable to take place and Herzog, who was already on the stage waiting to give Beitar players the trophy, was rushed off the pitch surrounded by security agents.
Police said that 18 soccer fans who were on the field were arrested on various charges, the AP reported. In a Twitter post, Herzog congratulated Beitar Jerusalem on its victory but also expressed dismay regarding the violence that took place on the field, “which unfortunately prevented the exciting and beautiful moment of the awarding of the trophy.”
The president said in a separate statement on Wednesday about the cancellation of the trophy ceremony on the field: “It’s a shame that fans committed to their team, full of pride, who waited 14 years for the trophy, didn’t get to see this very symbolic and important act.” He also called the actions of Beitar Jerusalem fans “dangerous and very wrong sportsmanship.”
The rules of the Israel Football Association (IFA) governing body calls for a championship to be stripped if fans run onto the field. The Football Association will reportedly hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the incident but Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar told Ynet Radio that he does not think the trophy should be taken from Beitar Jerusalem.
“It’s neither wise nor true, and it will also harm any sporting value of any sports game. That’s why I don’t think that denying the trophy can be a good option,” said Zohar, who was also on stage alongside Herzog, waiting to give Beitar Jerusalem its trophy on Tuesday night before the ceremony was cancelled.
Moshe Zuarets, chairman of the Israel Football Association, said that Tuesday night’s spectacle involving Beitar Jerusalem fans was “one of the most shameful events in the history of Israeli football” and noted that “we will take responsibility and not sweep away responsibility,” as cited by Ynet.
Beitar Jerusalem owner Barak Abramov also commented on the situation Tuesday night, saying that “to see the president try to award the trophy and be unable, that’s a sad moment, one of the saddest ever in the history of Israeli soccer.” He additionally threatened to sue the IFA if it tries to strip the trophy from his team.
“I don’t understand what caused them to enter the field. They let us all down,” Beitar manager Yossi Abuksis said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Beitar Jerusalem said it will host a celebration with their new trophy on Wednesday at Gan Sacher, also known as Sacher Park, that will include a performance by Moshe Peretz.