Fans put Be­tar in the dock

The Jewish Chronicle - - SPORT - BY SI­MON GRIVER

BE­TAR Jerusalem owner Arkady Gay­damak called his team’s sup­port­ers “id­iots and bas­tards” af­ter a mass pitch in­va­sion at Teddy Sta­dium on Sun­day night re­sulted in the Is­raeli Pre­miere League match against Mac­cabi Her­zliya be­ing aban­doned four min­utes from time.

Be­tar were lead­ing 1-0 and vic­tory would have vir­tu­ally as­sured a sec­ond suc­ces­sive ti­tle, leav­ing them 15 points clear with five games to play. The cel­e­brat­ing fans re­fused to leave the pitch, leav­ing ref­eree Alon Ye­fet no al­ter­na­tive but to call off the game.

English-born Her­zliya star­let Josh Ken­net was warm­ing up on the touch­line sec­onds be­fore thou­sands of fans ran on. Ken­net’s fa­ther Eilon said: “Over­all it was a fright­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence but his team­mates didn’t feel threat­ened in­di­vid­u­ally. It re­minded us of English foot­ball at its worst.”

An Is­rael FA dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee is ex­pected to or­der the teams to re­play the match be­hind closed doors or at an­other sta­dium and will im­pose ad­di­tional pun­ish­ments.

The club al­ready has a sus­pended penalty hang­ing over them af­ter their fans were found guilty of racist be­hav­iour for chant­ing “the Prophet Mo­hammed is dead” at a re­cent match.

The in­ci­dent is the first time that Gay­damak has crit­i­cised Be­tar’s fans, hav­ing even stood be­hind them when they booed dur­ing a minute’s si­lence for Yitzhak Rabin ear­lier this sea­son. Be­tar spokesman Oded Zar­gary was also crit­i­cal of the sup­port­ers. “The play­ers have worked so hard to get this far but a sec­tion of the crowd turned what should have been a great oc­ca­sion into a sad night for the club.”

Stung by Gay­damak’s crit­i­cism some Be­tar fans called for him to re­sign. “I am Be­tar,” said Gay­damak. “It’s my club, not theirs. If the fans don’t like it then they can find an­other team to sup­port. Those peo­ple are in­so­lent and stupid.”

Even so Gay­damak, whose po­lit­i­cal party So­cial Jus­tice in­tends run­ning in Is­rael’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions later this year and the next Knes­set elec­tions, may be forced to sell his stake in the club if he takes on a po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ment.

Is­rael na­tional team man­ager Dror Kash­tan has agreed a new twoyear con­tract.

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