Beitar owner to sell Jerusalem soccer club after fans’ rioting in Belgium

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The owner of Beitar Jerusalem said he was putting the Israeli soccer club up for sale because he felt ashamed of supporters’ hooliganism in Belgium.

Eli Tabib’s statement Friday followed rioting by fans during a match Thursday in Charleroi. A number of fans threw smoke bombs, flares and firecrackers at a Europa League qualifying round match in the Belgian city.

Fans from the opposite team chanted anti-Semitic slogans at the Israelis, Belgian media reported.

Beitar lost the match, in which Charleroi goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau was hit by a hard object thrown from the crowd, which forced a delay. Beitar can expect severe punishment from European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, The Jerusalem Post reported.

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“I am ashamed … I have decided to end my involvement with Israeli soccer and am returning to the United States … I will appoint a trustee to run the club until somebody is willing to buy it,” Tabib said in a statement.

Beitar’s fan base is a bastion of Israel’s political right-wing. A group of supporters known as “La Familia” that the club has been unable to control has been openly abusive to Israel’s Arab minority.

Beitar coach Slobodan Drapic said Beitar’s fans had been provoked, although he did not explain why some had come to the match with the flares and smoke bombs. It was unclear how so many devices were smuggled into the stadium.

Beitar fans have by far the worst disciplinary record in Israel’s Premier League and over the past decade the team has faced about two dozen hearings and received various punishments, including points deductions, fines and matches without audiences.

Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev condemned the action of the fans, saying on her Facebook page a “small group of thugs” had defamed Israeli soccer and called on Israeli police to cooperate with their Belgian counterparts.

Israel Radio quoted Belgian police officials as saying that Israeli police had not adequately forewarned them of possible troublemaking.

Beitar is due to host Charleroi in the return leg at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium next week. Regev said security, which is always heavy at Beitar matches, would be tightened further.

Regev said Beitar fans should be banned from attending.

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