Angry Beitar fans break into Platini presser
UEFA President Michel Platini got a close-up view of the ugly side of Israeli soccer in Tel Aviv on Tuesday when a small band of angry young men who support Beitar Jerusalem briefly disrupted a news conference he attended with Israel FA chairman Avi Luzon.
The half-dozen irate supporters, including one in military uniform, sneaked in with the media throng to one of Tel Aviv’s top hotels and sat to one side. Security guards were nowhere to be seen.
After a few minutes, the men began making expletive-filled chants against Luzon, as Platini, who did not understand what was being said, looked on bemused.
One of the supporters approached Platini and attempted to place a Beitar scarf around his neck but he was easily thwarted by Luzon who plucked the scarf away. Once the protesters had made their point they began to exit, shouting more abuse on the way. You can see a clip of it here on the sport5 website.
There is little love lost between the often outspoken Luzon, who has boasted big plans and a bright future for Israeli soccer that many critics say are unrealistic, and Beitar, the club seen as a bastion of Israel’s right-wing. Beitar are one of Israel’s most popular soccer clubs with huge support but they probably also elicit more deep hatred from rival supporters than any other outfit.
Luzon called on the police to arrest the hecklers and clearly, far more stringent security measures will be in place when UEFA holds its annual congress in Tel Aviv next March.
It must have been an embarrassment for Luzon and the Israeli FA, who have always touted their ability to guarantee total security for visiting sides. It was a no-brainer that the main dailies would mention the incident on their front pages — and they did, with the word “disgrace” most prominent.
PHOTO: UEFA President Michel Platini (L) attends a news conference in Tel Aviv October 6, 2009. REUTERS/Amir Cohen