By Chris Wright
Never a particularly convivial affair at the best of times, the Tel Aviv derby between Maccabi and Hapoel had to be abandoned at half-time on Monday evening after a player was sent off for lashing out at a fan.
Maccabi striker Eran Zahavi scored a penalty to cancel out Hapoel’s opener after half-an-hour, only to incur the wrath of the Hapoel fans behind the goal by cupping his ear to them.
It all proved too much for one moron, who clambered onto the pitch and swung for Zahavi, who reacted by kicking out at the fan before he was restrained by stadium security.
As for Zahavi, the Maccabi forward was sent off by referee Roi Reinshriber for lashing out at the angry fan (having previously been booked for inciting the crowd), which sparked a melee on the pitch that cleared both benches.
This from The Jerusalem Post:
Reinshriber may have acted exactly like refereeing regulations dictate, but his lack of common sense meant that there was no way the match could resume.
Zahavi wanted the entire team to walk off the pitch with him and it took around 10 minutes until Zahavi, with sporting director Jordi Cruyff by his side, left the pitch to a barrage of cups and anything else Hapoel fans could get their hands on.
Play then resumed briefly before the inevitable chaos descended as many more fans of both sides began sprinting onto the pitch, 10 of whom were later arrested.
Referee Reinshriber then blew the half-time whistle and abandoned the match there and then.
“This was not a game of football, it was war,” said Hapoel coach Eyal Berkovic.
“I’m stunned and ashamed to be involved in football on a day like today.
“Both clubs and both sets of supporters must be severely punished for what happened here.”
Israeli Sports Minister Limor Livnat later echoed Berkovic’s sentiments, issuing a statement that derided the anarchic scenes as “very serious, disgraceful and most shameful” before congratulating the referee for stopping the game.
Jordi Cruyff and Eyal Berkovic in one stadium? No wonder there were riots.